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Triangle-Area Doctors, Nurses Head To Katrina-Ravaged Gulf Coast

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Rex Nurses
RALEIGH, N.C. — Triangle-area doctors and nurses are packing up and heading south to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. They do not know what to expect when they arrive, but they have been trained to deal with just about anything.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Rex nurse Jacqui Murphy jumped at the chance for disaster relief training as well as her sister, Rex Hospital House Supervisor Mary Atwood. Now, they get to put that training to use in a natural disaster, somewhere along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.

"I don't know what we're walking into. We'll just have to wait and see when we get there," Murphy said.

The staff members from Rex Hospital are part of the State Medical Assist Team of 20 members, many from Triangle hospitals. They will help set up a mobile hospital. They expect to see diabetics without insulin and kidney patients in need of dialysis. The stress will likely affect heart patients.

The sisters know from their training that families will be divided and searching for each other.

"Something we learned in class, keep a log. Let them know if their family's been through there. What time they left. Try to get as much information as we can as they get through the doors," Murphy said.

Despite the rough conditions, Atwood and Murphy said they are anxious to help and said it will be a life-changing experience.

"You appreciate life a little more, I would imagine, when you see what your fellow neighbors are going through. And even though they're several states away, they are still our neighbors," Atwood said.

North Carolinians learned a lot from hurricanes like Fran and Floyd. After a storm, two immediate health threats come from contaminated food and water, which can lead to problems like E. coli, Hepatitis A and tetanus.

Many on the Gulf Coast may wish they had up-to-date tetanus vaccinations. About half of the adults in the country have not had a booster in the past 10 years. Hurricane season is long from over, so officials said it is wise to get the vaccinations before it is too late.


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