Message 5 Day 5- Oct 12
Maybe I spoke too soon about the shelter. None of us had a restful sleep last night. It was freezing last night, not because of the weather (it was actually quite warm), but because of the A/C. Even after borrowing many blankets, it didn’t help our backsides because the cool air would go right thru the bottom of the cot.

That morning, before returning to the DRC, we paid the DMAT a visit at Chalmette High School. Their MASH was very impressive, and the head of the DMAT, Merle, gave us a tour as well as a bit of history about the storm.

He showed us a fence where a fish got stuck during the flood, hammering in the image of the entire city being surrounded by water. Also, there was much local animosity towards Murphy’s Oil. One of their oil storage tanks leaked out about 26,000 gallons of oil into the area, which included many residential neighborhoods. All the plant life in those areas are dead, and because of the contamination of the water table underneath is likely to remain uninhabitable for many, many years to come.

Merle also told us about the first few days of the storm. When Katrina hit, and thousands of people were trapped, local police and firefighters were affected, too, and decided to wait for federal rescue workers. One day passed. Two days passed. They began to realize that no help was coming, and if anything was to be done, they’d have to do it. They started “borrowing” any boats they could find, whether they were tied down, or in trailers, and used them to rescue people until they ran out of fuel. They’d then go and commandeer another boat. That’s why you can see so many boats stranded in the middle of roads and such. It wasn’t because the storm carried the boats there; it was because of the initial rescue attempts of local emergency workers and law enforcement. Also, if you look closely enough, some of the cars have scratch marks on the roofs. That’s from the boats’ propellers driving over them.

We next visited the Animal Shelter next door, where volunteers were working to nurse pets and animals back to health, while volunteer vets took care of any injuries. I’d never really thought about pets as Katrina victims, but they had been trapped, too. One dog found just 2 days ago had been trapped in its home for 6 weeks ever since Katrina hit. It was extremely emaciated, but still friendly. Another dog had chemical burns to its eyes from all the household chemicals that found its way into the flood waters. Thanks to the care of the volunteers, it had just began to regain its sight. Many dogs and cats had diarrhea or suspected ringworm, and at the shelter, we also saw 2 snakes, 2 ducks, an iguana, a tarantula, a chicken, and 2 pigs. All their pictures are taken, and if no one claims them, once they are healthy enough, they are sent to out-of-state shelters.

At the DRC, it was another relatively slow day. Again, had about 85 vaccinations, but saw only about 30-35 patients today. We had a team meeting in the RV to discuss whether we should change locations. With only 2 clinic days left, it seemed best to just stay here, but we would bring it up with Dr. LeBlanc so that Teams 3 and 4 could maybe go somewhere else.