Close Encounter of the Human Kind

Abraham Verghese in the New York Times Magazine:

With the first busloads of Katrina refugees about to arrive in San Antonio, the call went out for physician volunteers, and I signed up for the 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. shift. On the way, riding down dark, deserted streets, I thought of driving in for night shifts in the I.C.U. as an intern many years ago, and how I would try to steel myself, as if putting on armor.

Within a massive structure at Kelly U.S.A. (formerly Kelly Air Force Base), a brightly lighted processing area led to office cubicles, where after registering, new arrivals with medical needs came to see us. My first patient sat before me, haggard, pointing to what ailed her, as if speech no longer served her. I peeled her shoes from swollen feet, trying not to remove skin in the process. Cuts from submerged objects and immersion in standing water had caused the swelling, as well as infection of both feet. An antibiotic, a pair of slip-ons from the roomful of donated clothing and a night with her feet elevated – that would help.

The ailments common among the refugees included diarrhea, bronchitis, sore throat and voices hoarse or lost. And stress beyond belief. People didn’t have their medications, and blood sugars and blood pressures were out of control.

More here.  [Thanks to Sughra Raza.]