Emory nurse, pharmacist help hundreds in Hurricane Harvey recovery

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Sept. 18, 2017

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Tam and Angelina Trinidad, RN, House Supervisor at EJCH, both volunteer for GA-3 DMAT (the Georgia 3 Disaster Medical Assistance Team).

Two Emory Johns Creek Hospital (EJCH) employees have returned to metro Atlanta, after helping with recovery efforts in Texas from Hurricane Harvey.

"We treated about 500 people near Beaumont, Texas inside a high school gym that was created into a makeshift emergency room," says Roland Tam, PharmD, clinical specialist.

Tam and Angelina Trinidad, RN, House Supervisor at EJCH, both volunteer for GA-3 DMAT (the Georgia 3 Disaster Medical Assistance Team). The agency is part of the National Disaster Medical System, which provides health and medical care to patients during natural disasters and other emergencies.

The federal government activated GA-3 DMAT to respond to Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 28. The storm and flooding killed more than 70 people and destroyed nearly 300 miles of the Texas coast and ravaged parts of Louisiana.

"When we arrived in Houston, all we saw were downed trees, flooded streets, wrecked homes and road closures," says Trinidad. "It was devastating – my heart ached for the people there."

Hurricane Harvey displaced more than a million people. Many of them were left without their homes, belongings and medications they need on a daily basis. The 40-members who make up GA-3 DMAT worked 12-hour shifts to care for the hurricane victims. They created a triage area at a high school just outside of Beaumont to separate critical and ambulatory patients.

"Many pharmacies were closed due to flooding or had been ruined by the storm," says Tam. "We dispensed medications for blood pressure, blood sugar, and antibiotics because some survivors suffered wounds from falling or trying to escape the conditions." Trinidad says part of working in the field during disasters like Hurricane Harvey, is thinking smart and acting fast, making every second count.

"We cared for patients who suffered heart attacks, strokes and an overdose," says Trinidad. The group spent more than a week in Texas caring for people. They are now on call for the month of September in the event they are needed to respond to another disaster. Tam and Trinidad have volunteered for years for these type of medical missions. Both say they’re committed to helping people in need for as long as they can.

"Just knowing we’re able to help people during one of the toughest times of their lives keeps me motivated to lend a hand and make a difference," says Tam.