Heavy rain begins to fall. As Spencer drives down I-10, Stokes turns around from the passenger seat and describes what awaits at both the Causeway staging center and the airport. There are no port-o-lets at the Causeway for medics or patients. At the airport, there is a drastic shortage of medical equipment and supplies, and the conditions are deplorable. "That's the only place we can take them," Stokes says.
"The last trip we took we had seven in this little van, one of them a baby less than two weeks old. They've been loading us down," says Stokes, who has had little sleep since being called out from their Colfax, La., station Monday night. "They told us we couldn't go anymore until we got sleep."
When they arrive at the staging center around 1 p.m., medics already on duty are running straight shifts on little more than adrenaline. They are tending to seven children, ages 6 to an infant, who had just been rescued from an apartment roof by a military helicopter. A National Guardsman who brought the children in told Acadian Ambulance medic Robert Clement that they were on the rooftop with a neighbor, who now could not be found.
Demonte Carlos Love, a spirited 6-year-old boy who helps a reporter spell out his name, says his dad put them on the roof. "He's still in the house," Demonte says of his father. "My mom is too. My mom was crying."
One of the girls, about 2 years old, clings to Clement, and he seems unwilling to give her up until her parents can be located. It's apparent in his face that he fears the worst. He gets word that Social Services will take over the children's care from the Bureau of EMS in Baton Rouge. "When I gave her away on the ambulance, she told me she loved me," Clement says. "I cried all the way home." (By late Friday he was still trying to find out if the children's parents had been located.)
By mid-afternoon, the rain has stopped. It was enough to cool off the thousands of refugees who have gathered at this sprawling interstate site, where those with medical conditions are treated and evaluated ' and the rest just wait. Most here have been rescued by air or boat, and for many it's the first food and water they've had in days. They line up behind barriers on the side of the muddy interstate ' now completely littered with trash and filth. They are exhausted and bewildered, waiting for buses to take them to unknown destinations.
"Say miss, do you know where we're going?"
It's the most common question of the day, and no one can answer it.
Throughout the day Army and Coast Guard helicopters fly in with survivors, and armed National Guardsmen travel in convoys over the Huey P. Long Bridge to Algiers, where they are picking up refugees brought over by ferry from small towns across the river. Before the soldiers depart for the last transport of the day, Ray Lasseigne of the Gretna Police Department tells them there's just been a shootout on the West Bank, where the Oakwood mall is on fire. "I'll give you one better than that," Lasseigne says. "They're shooting at the rescuers trying to rescue them."
"I ain't seen nothing like this since the war," guardsman Jeff Smith of Black Lake says from the back of a deuce and a half Army truck on the trip to Algiers. Smith, who served in Iraq for a year, says the environment is disturbingly familiar. "They have no home to go to," he says. "Stuff like this just hurts my heart. It's my own people."
And they are dying by the hour. Those still in their homes, waiting in the streets and in hospitals, and even those in the deteriorating shelters ' like New Orleans' airport. A sea of despair, the airport is scattered with bodies, mostly elderly people getting as much attention as the skeleton crew of medical personnel can provide. Even basic equipment is not available.
Later that evening, Charity Hospital nurse Robyn Givens arrives at the airport via a Blackhawk helicopter. She is manually pumping oxygen into an elderly stroke patient with a tracheotomy. She'd been at the hospital since Sunday at 7 a.m.; after the storm, food was rationed, all communication was down, and windows had to be broken to get air into some hospital rooms.
"All of the employees are still at the hospital," Givens says. One of the oldest hospitals in New Orleans, Charity is not getting any assistance or communication from officials, and the doctors have taken it upon themselves to organize evacuations while patients keep coming into the public hospital. "The nurses would work 12-hour shifts, and even after [they took breaks] the doctors were still working," she says. "The ER looked like a MASH unit."
Across from Charity at Tulane University Hospital, where water is chest high, conditions aren't much better. Rick Gist, a resident physician at Tulane, has been working since Friday before the storm and came to the airport with his patients.
Medical personnel at the airport are distraught that their hospitals received no assistance, and they plead with reporters to let the country know patients are dying and there are still hundreds of employees and patients who need to be evacuated.
"We have no power, no sewer, no linens, no water. Everyone with a surgical incision has an infection," Gist says. "We need real help from the government. It is a war zone."
On Friday night, CNN reports that more than 40,000 people have been treated at the airport ' 800 every hour. By Saturday morning, Charity had finally been evacuated. But the rescue efforts were too late for at least two patients waiting on ramps.
They died waiting.
Urgent Care clinics unprepared for Ebola; Nazis collected Social Security; Hawaii dodges a bullet and more national and international news for Monday, October 20, 2014.
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.
With her political future in jeopardy, Sen. Mary Landrieu is turning to a natural constituent base in her re-election bid.
Terrance Broadway threw for a touchdown and rushed for 113 yards to lead Louisiana-Lafayette to a 34-10 victory over Texas State on Tuesday night.
Aligned with the party of an unpopular president, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu sought to keep her distance from the Obama administration, against claims from her chief Republican challenger Bill Cassidy that a vote to re-elect the Democratic incumbent was a vote for Barack Obama.
Seven people in Louisiana and two others in Mississippi have been arrested in connection with an international online sales scam.
Despite the hype and potential misinformation to have spread in the wake of Mark Cockerham’s recent departure from the LPSB, his candidacy for reelection is still on — now with the backing of the Chamber's Empower PAC.
No, seriously, the state says today cops nabbed seven people suspected of being “members and affiliates of Romanian organized crime.” In Lafayette.
LSU’s all-time leading rusher and three-time Super Bowl champion Kevin Faulk, UL Lafayette great and Super Bowl quarterback Jake Delhomme and coaching legend Yvette Girouard will be enshrined next summer.
Severe storms that moved across Louisiana caused widespread damage and power outages.
A dispute over the Common Core education standards won't sideline Louisiana's application for up to $15 million in federal grant money for pre-kindergarten programs, Gov. Bobby Jindal decided Monday.
The three main contenders in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race are squaring off in a TV debate for the first time, with only three weeks to go until Election Day.
A state judge signed an order Monday temporarily blocking ash from the incineration of a Texas Ebola victim's belongings to be disposed of at a southwest Louisiana site.