A Flood of Problems

Like a lot of people in Houston, Ann Saunders, MD, had seen flooding before. Her house on Brays Bayou in southwest Houston flooded briefly in 2015 and almost flooded in 2016.

But then came Hurricane Harvey. >RO ]^Y\W N\YZZON K \OMY\N SXMRO] YP \KSX YX ^RO 2Y_]^YX K\OK Y`O\ `O NKc]

in late August. Dr. Saunders watched as water crept up one foot, two feet, then nearly three feet into her living room. That forced her daughter, son-in-law, and 2-year-old grandson up to the attic. Yet Dr. Saunders knew others had it worse. People on the other side of the bayou had water up to their ceilings. Dr. Saunders, a child psychiatrist and an associate professor at the McGovern

Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, says that like a lot of physicians, she’s concerned about the trauma the storm caused her city and most of coastal Texas. “I think it’s because of the enormity of it,” she said. “In one afternoon or night, all your things are swept away and/or ruined. You’ve had that concern about whether you were going to be safe or not. … My daughter said, ‘Well, we KVaKc] RK`O Y_\ K^^SM SP S^ YYN] ^YY W_MR t ,_^ ^ROX cY_t\O _Z ^RO\O KXN cY_t\O thinking, ‘Oh, my God, is this really happening?’” Even though Hurricane Harvey no longer dominates news cycles, its health consequences will continue to reverberate around the state for months and even years to come, says David Lakey, MD, chair of the Texas Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health. Many of those consequences will be ZRc]SMKV ]_MR K] K T_WZ SX SVVXO]] ^SON ^Y WYVN Y\ ZYVV_^ON YYN aK^O\] ]Kc] .\ Lakey, who is a former commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. Others will be psychological, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “I think we’ve learned from our experience that these things are predict-

able,” Dr. Lakey said. “But I don’t think the primary care physician thinks a lot about those in their busy day-to-day clinic — thinking through the burden of the things they might see. It’s probably not at the top of their list.” Physicians across Texas will need to be vigilant for health problems caused

by Hurricane Harvey over time, says John Mutter, PhD, professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, who studies the impact of natural disasters. Doc- ^Y\] SX MYK]^KV K\OK] WSQR^ ZKc MVY]O\ K^^OX^SYX ^Y YYN \OVK^ON ROKV^R Z\YL

24 TEXAS MEDICINE November 2017

lems because they lived through the hurricane. But some of the most se- rious issues are likely to arise among ZK^SOX^] aRY ON ^Y Y^RO\ ZK\^] YP ^RO state and didn’t go back home — es- pecially those who are poor or elderly, Dr. Mutter says. “Sometimes, the displaced popula- tion needs more attention or as much attention as the people who’ve stayed or come back,” Dr. Mutter said.

“She was on the ground, pulseless, not

breathing” Lane Aiena, MD, and head nurse Tamara Blanton had already worked one shift at the Lone Star Convention Center in Conroe. But at about 6 pm on Aug. 30, they joined a group of new nurses in a team huddle to discuss that evening’s work when some of the shelter residents began screaming.

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