A Heroic Physician Among Us
As we continue to recover from Hurricane Michael across the panhandle of Florida, I want to share a story of a physician who represents the best of us as physicians.
Throughout the storm and in the aftermath, I remained in contact with Dr. Susan Compton of Panama City, FL. Susan is a home medical director for DaVita and, along with her partners at her practice, cares for patients in the surrounding vicinity. She lives and works in the heart of the hurricane devastation.
On the Tuesday night before the storm made landfall, she sent her young son off to stay with her parents while she and her husband went to the hospital (Bay Area Sacred Heart) to shelter in place and care for patients. Before arriving at the hospital, she stopped at her office, which is attached to the Panama City DaVita clinic. There, she grabbed as much Kayexalate as she could to take with her to the hospital.
During the storm, nephrologists from other practices could not get to the hospital, so she took care of ALL the admitted renal patients, regardless of their primary physician. During the storm, the hospital lost power and water, so she carried crates of bottled water up to the floors for patients. All of this while also making preparations with other hospital staff for mass casualties.
Bay Medical Sacred Heart suffered tremendous damage in the storm. They had major roof destruction and broken windows leading to water breaches, but still, she kept working, kept caring for patients and kept me updated. The damage to her hospital and the surrounding area was so bad, they featured Bay Medical and its CEO on CNN during the storm’s coverage.
Bay Medical is not a Hospital Services Group facility, though HCA Gulf Coast is in the vicinity and suffered extensive damage as well. In that hospital, HSG nurses were able to care for multiple dialysis patients and ultimately help facilitate evacuations. The damage to each building was so widespread that both hospitals remain closed.
In the immediate aftermath, she left the hospital and walked over to her dialysis clinic. She wanted to see if any patients had arrived that might need her help. She then returned to the hospital to find dialysis patients of all providers in the ER. She got the phone numbers for Guest Services and started working to find each of them a dialysis facility.
By Thursday, the storm had passed and Susan had located all but one of her partners (fortunately, he was ultimately contacted and the entire group of physicians were unharmed). She made it back to her neighborhood and her home late Thursday and, as expected, the damage was real. Regardless, she also made her rounds to the dialysis facilities that were able to reopen. By the weekend, she had been reunited with her son and DaVita had reopened all but a handful of dialysis facilities. Along with her partners, she continued to treat patients.
In the face of chaos, turmoil, separation from her family and catastrophic destruction, this is a nephrologist (like many others) who put her patients and her community first. I am often inspired by the stories I hear from our colleagues around the country. During natural disasters and chaos or during times of routine care and relative calm, it always impresses me just what the members of our great nephrology community are willing to do for their patients…and even for patients that aren’t theirs. Thank you Susan. And thank you to all of the dedicated nephrologists who continue to demonstrate care and leadership during these types of situations.
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