Houston’s Health Care Heroes During Harvey

Houston Health Care Harvey Heroes

By India Ogazi

In the midst of Harvey, one of the worst disasters in U.S. history, Houston’s medical community rose above the storm to bring healing. It’s not surprising since Houston is home to the largest medical center in the world, the Texas Medical Center — world renowned for its superior patient care.

Below we highlight just a few of stories of Houston’s health care heroes.

Doctor canoes to hospital to perform surgery

At 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 26, as Harvey began to release its fury, Dr. Stephen Kimmel received a call for an emergency surgery, the Houston Chronicle reported. It was for a 16-year-old boy in critical need of surgery. Unmoved by the torrential storms in his Dickinson neighborhood, Kimmel accepted the case and set out to Clear Lake Regional Hospital.

Accepting the case was easy, but getting there, not so much.

First, Kimmel attempted driving to the hospital but faced flooded streets and had to return home. He alerted his chief medical officer, who then called the fire department to help him get to the hospital. Two fire fighters came to his home and the three dredged through high waters before being picked up by a fire truck. Once on the fire truck they approached high waters and had to move to a canoe. While canoeing through the waters, the firefighters then spotted people stranded on the tops of their vehicle and went to their rescue, leaving Kimmel to run the rest of the way to the hospital, through pouring rain.

Kimmel arrived just in time to successfully complete the life-saving surgery. He put his life at risk to save another, yet it appears he takes it all in stride, telling the Houston Chronicle, “It was more exciting than most of my Saturday nights.”

Cancer surgeon turns rescuer

After hearing of a woman in need of rescue from her flooded home, Dr. Fred Lang, of MD Anderson, sprang into action, according to FOX26 News. Through a text message group, Lang’s wife learned that a neighbor, Mikki Talley, had posted on Facebook that she was stuck in her apartment.

Lang walked three quarters of a mile to her apartment complex to rescue her, where he then helped a stranger move his car. The stranger, in turn, showed him a map of the complex, enabling him to find Talley’s unit. Maneuvering high waters, he entered her garage and began knocking on her door as he called her name. A stunned Talley, opened her door and to her surprise, and relief, found Lang on the other side saying “…I’m Dr. Fred Lang and I’m coming to get you. Come on let’s go!”

12-hour shifts become 90-hour shifts

Reports of hospital staff working overtime as they rode out the storm checkered social media. Facebook messages gave praise to an ER doctor, in northwest Houston, who worked 90 hours when her relief couldn’t make it to the hospital, and an OB-GYN, inside the medical center, who worked labor and delivery for 96 hours.

MD Anderson’s Dr. Karen Lu gave praise to their ride-out teams on Twitter, highlighting nurse Sandra Peters who stayed at MD Anderson for five days providing key radiology studies, throughout the flood.

Through high waters, torrential storms and 90-hour shifts, Houston’s health care workers answered the call of duty. It’s said that tough times will show you what you’re made of and hurricane Harvey has shown that Houston is all heart — a strong community that is not torn apart by disaster but drawn together by it.