An unsinkable commitment to patients and each other
While a record-setting storm flooded many parts of the Houston area and the Gulf Coast, MD Anderson’s workforce showed the power of teamwork by stepping up and doing whatever it took to maintain continuous care for patients
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, one thing everyone can agree on is that no one expected it to grow into the “record-setting” storm it became, dropping almost 52 inches of rain on Houston and the surrounding area.
The trail of destruction it left in its path includes the deaths of more than 80 people and $180 billion in damages. Over 200,000 homes were flooded, and 39,000 people were forced to evacuate. Many thousands were rescued from the floodwaters by federal forces, local police, fire and rescue personnel, and area residents. In the end, nearly 13,000 homes and 1 million cars and trucks were destroyed.
Despite all that was lost, the crisis brought out the very best in people. Across the area, residents pitched in to help neighbors in need, and an unprecedented natural disaster was met with unprecedented kindness and humanity.
At MD Anderson, doctors, nurses and staff showed the same selflessness and love for patients and each other. This issue of Conquest recognizes the sacrifice and dedication shown by the institution’s employees before, during and after the hurricane to make sure care was continuous. Unfortunately, not every such example can be included in these pages; there’s just not enough room to share every deserving story. But that’s a testament to the strength of character so common among the people who work at the nation's top cancer hospital, and it demonstrates their commitment to the patients they serve.
On the morning of Sunday, Aug. 27, as Harvey continued to batter the Houston area, Karen Lu, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer ad interim, and her husband made their way through eight flooded blocks from their home to a place where a high-water vehicle driven by University of Texas Police Department Officer Carl Willis could reach them.
Willis then took Lu to MD Anderson where she joined faculty and staff members on the ride-out team that was caring for approximately 530 inpatients, along with some 300 family members. UTPD also picked up Carol Porter, D.N.P., vice president and chief nursing officer, and delivered her to the hospital. Porter and Lu joined Marian Von-Maszewski, M.D., assistant professor of Critical Care and Respiratory Care, who was serving as the Incident Commander during the storm, and the three led those on-site, as well as the entire institution, through the unprecedented storm and into the recovery period that followed.
These leaders’ readiness to step up and do whatever necessary to ensure patients were cared for and safe was mirrored by many during the crisis. Since the storm, stories of MD Anderson doctors and employees who put their own needs and safety aside have continued to be circulated and shared. Those include many from the cancer center’s nurses, pharmacy technicians, laboratory technicians, food services employees and UTPD staff, whom Lu described to NPR as the “unsung heroes” during the emergency.
- Dishing out praise
Karen Lu, M.D., chief medical officer ad interim, credits teamwork and some unsung heroes with seeing the cancer center through the crisis. Read more
- Quick decisions
Marian Von-Maszewski, M.D., is no stranger to emergency situations. She trained under legendary trauma surgeon James “Red” Duke, M.D. Read more
- Innovative solutions
University of Texas Police Department Assistant Police Chief Vicki King called on the Houston Police Department and the City of Houston for help in transporting vital blood donations and staff through the floodwaters. Read more
- A veteran of emergencies
In her 40 years of nursing experience, Chief Nursing Officer Carol Porter, D.N.P., has cared for patients through blizzards, hurricanes and 9/11. Her training was valuable during Harvey. Read more