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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Gulf Coast Reflection, Sept. 17, 2005

We are still deployed in New Orleans, located at the foot of Canal Street, adjacent to the Riverwalk and across the street from Harrah’s Casino, which serves as the operational headquarters of the New Orleans Police Department. As of this writing, at 7:45 PM, we have seen an even 100 patients, and there are still more to come. Many of our patients have come from the National Guard and the 82nd Airborne Division. We also seen many emergency workers as well as some civilians as the city begins to be repopulated. The problems we have solved included lost glasses, eye infections and irritation (very common with the environmental contamination), and postoperative care of cataract patients. We identified several glaucoma suspects and initiated therapy in some patients. Most of our patients today are first responders who lived through the horror of the Superdome and Convention Center. Word of our presence has spread throughout their ranks and many have come after their on-duty period to seek our care. All are extremely grateful. A number of patients have been observed taking photographs of our van (apparently for their photo albums).

There are no hospitals open in Orleans Parish. Charity Hospital, University Hospital, Tulane University Hospital, and the Veterans Hospital are all closed. All have sustained damage and there is no timetable for their reopening. So, for the time being, the Bascom Palmer Vision Van is helping to fill the gap.. It is likely that we stay at this location, since we anticipate that the number of eye problems will increase as civilians re-enter the city over the next few days. The damage to the medical infrastructure in New Orleans is without parallel in U.S. history. The Ochsner Clinic and two other hospitals in Jefferson Parrish are open and are bearing the burden for the entire community.

We had the privilege today of spending some time on the Iwo Jima, an amphibious aircraft carrier docked at the Riverwalk. The Iwo Jima has played an important role in helped to restore the medical infrastructure in the community. It has the resources of a level one trauma center, with a staff of more than 20 physicians and surgeons.

Dr. Andrew Moshfeghi has been lead the physician today. Tomorrow Dr. Stephen Couvillion will return and our team will expand on Monday with the addition of Dr. Ben Mason. Next week will be a busy week.

Carmen A. Puliafito M.D.