As the floodwater began to rise around the Texas Medical Center, Dr. Shane Jenks, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, found himself taking on responsibilities he didn’t expect.
Jenks is an emergency physician at Harris Health’s Ben Taub Hospital and the assistant program director for the Baylor College of Medicine emergency medicine residency program. He was on duty when the record-breaking rain from Hurricane Harvey fell on Houston and its surrounding areas.
“There were some issues when flooding began, as one would expect, but our patients who were already at the hospital, and the handful that showed up, were always safe and well cared for,” he said.
There were days when no one could enter or leave the hospital without wading through dangerous flood waters, but what surprised him the most was what he found himself doing that was not related to patient care.
“This included things like saving the pharmacy supplies and cleaning out my office when it began to flood and taking part in administrative meetings to ensure hospital wide communication during this emergency event,” Jenks said. “I also found myself acting as the ‘mother’ of the resident group.”
With everyone on high alert during the storm, Jenks had to remind others to eat, sleep and to stay in touch with their families.
“Sometimes physicians need a persistent reminder to take care of themselves,” He said. “It was also a challenge to convince other physicians to stay away from the hospital. Many wanted to come in to help, but the streets were too dangerous to navigate, and I didn’t want to put anyone in danger.”
Despite the challenges and the stress of the storm and helping patients with limited staff, Jenks said there was a sense of community among those who were essentially locked in the hospital. Not only were they taking care of patients together, but also working together to make the hospital their home base for those couple days they couldn’t leave.
When Jenks finally did head home, many Houston streets were still flooded so a 45 minute commute on a normal day took more than four hours. That was a sign of the devastation that hit the Houston area. Thousands of homes were flooded and countless families needed help. Jenks’ sense of community once again kicked in and he volunteered with a group called Mormon Helping Hands to demolish and clean out many damaged homes.
He soon learned that some of his colleagues were also in need. So while working his regular clinical shifts he helped to organized two groups of residents to work at a fellow resident’s home and also at a nurse’s home. They cleaned out saturated and moldy belongings, wet drywall and flooring.
“It was a very busy and stressful times but for different reasons then I might have imagined,” Jenks said. “It wasn’t just our department, all of Ben Taub employees were working together to help one another and keep the hospital running smoothly.”