Thursday, December 14, 2006
Coast groups thank hospital, clinic
By BARRY BURLESON
Reginald McClelland drove from the Gulf Coast to Holly Springs last week to honor a group of people who he said he made “a tremendous difference” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Alliance HealthCare System and Williams Medical Clinic sent two separate medical teams to Gulfport’s area of need. The teams were sent specifically to provide free medical services, free medications and free transportation to victims who could not afford or lost life-saving medications in the storm.
“We anticipated a small storm and getting back at it the next day,” said McClelland, a member of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Gulfport who attended college with Dr. Kenneth Williams at the University of Southern Mississippi. “Needless to say, that never took place.”
On August 29, 2005, the worst natural disaster in American history made landfall on the Gulf Coast.
“Dr. Williams is from the Gulf Coast and understood the devastation,” McClelland said. “Shortly after the storm, I received a phone call, ‘What can we do?’ “
The first medical team – Dr. Williams, Regina Williams, Courtney Williams, Ronnie Calvert, Shanda Caffey, Nicole Stewart, Derhonda Wilson, Andrea Porter and Eddie Jones – arrived September 30, 2005, around 2 a.m. preparing to sleep as well as set up and transform St. Mark UMC into a temporary medical clinic. Through the graciousness of a church member, the team crowded into her Katrina-damaged home and prepared for their tasks ahead.
Up early, transforming the church into a functionable clinic within 30 minutes, the first patients were served. The team serviced conditions ranging from upper respiratory infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, colds, flu, minor abrasions, headaches and others associated with the storm. The group assisted for a few days.
“The day before they came, we just got electricity,” McClelland said. “A lot of areas still had no electricity or water. Some patients did not have transportation to get to the church. Dr. Williams went into the community to speak to and assist some of the people. It was heroic.”
The second team from Alliance Healthcare System and Williams Medical Clinic – Kathy Williams, Melissa Campbell and Corey Jeffries – departed fromm Holly Springs in the early morning hours October 14, 2005, after working their shifts at the hospital and clinic. They arrived in Gulfport around 8 a.m. to provide the same services as the first team and after servicing Katrina victims’ medical needs, returned that evening to Holly Springs where most were to work the next day.
Before their departure from Gulfport, the team had the opportunity to tour behind the “do not enter” area where most of the storm surge occurred. These areas were patrolled by armed guards ordered to react on site due to ongoing efforts to rescue and account missing persons. Navigating through the debris and devastation, the team witnessed firsthand what much of the public and media had not seen.
“When we decided to go there and help, I knew the person to call,” said Dr. Williams, talking about his friend. “The real hero was Reginald (McClelland). We were prepared to sleep in our van, but he would not let us sleep anywhere but in his house. His family took us in.”
Last week McClelland presented Alliance Healthcare System and Williams Medical Clinic proclamations from the City of Gulfport, the city council and mayor, plus plaques of recognition from St. Mark UMC.
“It was more than St. Mark,” McClelland said. “St. Mark was the hosting church.
“We are so thankful that they (the medical teams from Holly Springs) were able to come to our rescue. They were wonderful – a blessing.”
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