Thursday, December 29, 2005

• Assisting hurricane victims
Brame, Wright provide medical help on coast

Staff Writer

Stories continue to be told of how Holly Springs and Marshall County people are pitching in to help out with recovery efforts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Two family nurse practitioners from Holly Springs traveled to Gulfport September 21 to help communities hit by Hurricane Katrina. As they traveled, millions in Texas and Louisiana were fleeing a second hurricane, Rita.

Driving into the storm were Susan Brame and Renee Wright, practitioners with Brame and Wright Medical Clinic in Holly Springs. The nurses were on a mission to carry donated medical supplies to the Gulfport area and to serve as volunteer field nurses.

Brame said the clinic contacted the Mississippi Board of Nursing offering to help anywhere needed.

“They contacted us about 10 days later with the site and the clinic name where they wanted us to work,” Brame said. “They wanted us to leave that day, but we had patients everywhere in the clinic so we told them we would leave the next day.”

The staff at Brame and Wright called and cancelled all appointments and helped them pack their personal vehicles with supplies they had and some donated by Tyson’s Drugs.

“There was no room in our cars to even move our hands because they were so full,” Brame said. “So when we got to Oxford where Renee lives, her son Trey helped us unpack the cars and pack up his large pickup, including supplies that were dropped off at Renee’s house by different supply companies.”

Brame and Wright left together in the pickup on a 300-mile drive that would take them close to the worst disaster that has ever hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Wright said the trip south was unnerving but numerous churches were praying for them and family and friends provided updates on Rita’s whereabouts by cell phone as they drove.

“My son was calling and we had a lot of support,” Wright said.

“We stopped every 100 miles to add more fuel, which was easy to find until we got past Jackson,” Brame said. “The first night we stayed in Hattiesburg. The first motels we saw had no vacancies, then a very kind person at the front desk of one motel called around for us and found the very last room in Hattiesburg.”

When they arrived at the only motel with a vacancy “people were everywhere, hanging over the rails upstairs,” Brame said. “I was so frightened by all these people lurching at us that I dropped my bottled water and keys while trying to get into the room.”

Once Brame and Wright arrived in the Gulfport area they pitched their sleeping bags with the others on the floor of the sanctuary at First Assembly of God Church which was converted for use as a make-shift clinic and distribution center for Feed the Children.

The clinic was relocated from the church sanctuary soon after they arrived to the family life center when sanctuary was overcome by black mold.

Two to three feet of water had flooded the sanctuary during Hurricane Katrina, Wright said.

Brame said it was very hard sleeping there but they got to swap stories with others who told how long they had been there and how far away they had come from.

Brame’s favorite story is one of a male nurse from New York City who said his hospital employer told him he would not have a job if he left.

The nurse fell in love with south Mississippi and said he has decided to stay.

Black mold eventually broke out in the church clinic and the building was declared off limits. The clinic and pharmacy were moved to the family life center or what was left of it, Brame said.

Brame had started an IV drip for a person who was dehydrated and the patient couldn’t be moved to the family life center right away. So volunteers took turns staying with the patient until he could be moved.

The clinic also gave tetanus and Hepatitis B vaccinations to protect the public from exposures to these biological agents.

Brame said the landscape was dotted with torn-up buildings, trash and cut up trees. Workers were not allowed to go the coastline proper to see the devastation. The area was guarded and only those with special passes were allowed in, Brame said.

Wright said supplies came in and were quickly unloaded and distributed from the Feed the Children center. Church ladies worked 12 to 16 hours a day shifts to feed the staff, do the cleaning and organize truck loads of supplies as fast as they arrived.

While in the area Brame and Wright traveled as many county roads as were passable doing medical assessments. Their goal was to provide immediate medical relief until local clinics could reopen.

Medical conditions ranged from spider bites to strep throat to dehydration and infection of wounds.

They wrote prescription refills for patients who could not connect with their physicians and provided medications to veterans being served by the Veterans Hospital in Biloxi until the facility was resupplied.

While providing field assessments the nurses passed along the good news to rural churches that supplies and care was available at the Feed the Children center.

Wright said they saw neighbor caring for neighbor “as long as one house was standing.”

Medical supplies were donated by Liddy’s Health Mart, Tyson’s Drugs, Hickory Flat Clinic, Baptist Memorial Hospital of North Mississippi, and from Panola county businesses. Along the way they picked up medical and surgical supplies and other relief and money collected by friends in Calhoun County - the Loosa Skuna Daughters of the American Revolution, nurses of Calhoun Health Services and Bruce Nursing Center.

This is not the first time Brame and Wright have gone on medical missions.

Wright travelled to Honduras in the 1980s and Brame went on a mission to Mexico in July 2005.

Brame said she is planning to take more mission trips with her church.

“I plan on returning to Mexico or Africa this fall on a trip with my church,” said Brame. “That’s where we both learned how to adapt to this kind of situation.”

Since the Gulfport trip was a short one, Brame and Wright did not get to see the full impact of Katrina on the communities.

“I do know the people we were in contact with were givers, and on the field assessments people were so kind and appreciative to everything that was done for them,” Brame said.

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