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Survivor stories: Katrina and Methodist Health System staff


They're images we'll never forget: American citizens stranded on their roofs as flood waters raged. Families paddling canoes through flooded streets, trying to reach safety while searching for loved ones. Lines of stranded New Orleans residents, desperate for water or medication at the Superdome.

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, striking New Orleans on August 29, 2005. When levees and flood walls protecting the city failed, much of New Orleans was under water. Other parts of Louisiana and parts of Mississippi also sustained serious destruction.

Katrina was a landmark moment for much of America. People from around the nation remember where they were when they watched hours of news coverage.

Many survivors made new homes in North Texas. They didn't just watch news coverage; those horrifying images were their reality. Some of those survivors became members of our Methodist Health System family. Some of our colleagues helped treat evacuees brought here to North Texas, or they went to the Gulf Coast to work or volunteer.

A decade later, it's important to celebrate the perseverance of our colleagues, and to remember the pain they went through.

Here are some of our stories:

Patricia Wells

Patricia Wells, food service associate

"I am still recovering from Katrina (even though it was 9 years ago). I have been in Dallas since Katrina. My husband and daughter were swept away in the 14 foot waves. I was on my roof for 4 days with my brother. My daughter was found - safe, my husband was found dead and 3 months later I had to identify his body. I had to get help from the K-Force to get my social security number and ID so I could get a job."

After being rescued from the roof of her home, Wells was taken to the Superdome. She was later brought to Dallas. She was reunited with her daughter, Dawn Modicue, several years after the storm. Today, they work side-by-side in food services at Methodist Dallas! They both returned to New Orleans this year for Mardi Gras. To help with her recovery, Wells received a car from the Methodist Health System Foundation BEN fund. Patricia shared her story with WFAA-TV.Learn more about the BEN Fund.

Robert Simonson, MD

Robert Simonson, MD

Dr. Simonson is the chair of the Methodist Dallas Medical Center Department of Emergency Medicine. He is also medical director of CareFlite Dallas/Fort Worth.

"I was one of the doctors who met the large Air Force planes that came to Love Field which had many victims on board from nursing homes that needed placement.What a gut wrenching day - some had no names, no medical records, and no family... I also was one of the doctors at the convention center parking garage seeing the first 11 buses who came to the Dallas area. I remember many victims who lost their glasses and just wanted to see.Of note- the entire ED docs from Methodist Health System and Parkland were the first to volunteer and get the job done. Very humbling and exposed our vulnerability as humans to a situation which had no control over!!!"

Jessica Prusa Flores, MD

Jessica Prusa Flores, MD

Dr. Prusa Flores and her friends at Tulane, one week before Hurricane Katrina.

"I was starting my sophomore year at Tulane and helping move in freshman the same day I help the school evacuate over 600 students and their families. I will never forget sitting on the buses, or in the giant gymnasium in Jackson, Mississippi waiting out the storm, wondering if people I cared about were okay. I eventually got back to Omaha, Nebraska because of a thoughtful mom who picked up her daughter and thought ask where I was from. They happened to be from Wichita, Kansas and offered without hesitation to take me wherever I needed to go. People helping me throughout my life has led me into the profession of helping others."

Kim Thornton home

Kim Thornton, Medical Assistant

Thornton's home, about two weeks after the storm.

"I left the city before the storm hit with my Mom, grandmother, sister and 2-year-old daughter because my husband did not want to evacuate. We headed to Atlanta and thought everything was ok since the storm had already made land fall and there were only reports of wind damage and power outages. It was not until the next morning we watched the news and saw the entire city underwater.

I was not able to get in contact with my husband to check if he even left. Once we realized we could not go back home we left Atlanta and drove to Indianapolis to stay with family. It was not until 3 days after the storm I was finally able to get in touch with my husband, who did get out but was only able to make it to Baton Rouge with his dad and brother and slept in a church parking lot. By that time I was now in Chicago with my aunt. My husband made it to Dallas along with about 25 other family members to a cousin's house about a week after the storm. My husband then flew to Chicago and met us and we drove from there back here to Dallas where we have been ever since. We were a family of 3 sleeping in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home with 25 other evacuees.

We were able to get an apartment 2 days later. My husband is a UPS employee and he was able to resume working as soon as we were in the apartment. I was able to find a job at Las Colinas Medical Center and was hired on the spot. Once we decided we were going to stay here we sold our home in New Orleans and bought our house here, 5 months after losing everything. New Orleans will always be home, but love my life here. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I never imagined living my life, raising my children anywhere but New Orleans. But 10 years later here we are and I know this is where we were meant to be. #WHODAT"

Claudette Gordon, nurse

"When I think of New Orleans, it brings back sweet memories. I sometimes think of people I have known and work with in the city and wonder how they made out. Many, I may never know. When I first went back home, I just cried to see how everything was so torn and weary. But today, sweet New Orleans is on the rebound. It's not perfect, but it is better. Sweet New Orleans will always call my name no matter where I may live. Love you, New Orleans; may God share its blessing!!!!!"

Nurse from Methodist Dallas (asked to be anonymous)

"A few days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the North Texas medical community heard that we would receive survivors at the Dallas Convention Center...The people who were being seen had just been bussed in from the Superdome and were carrying what little they had in plastic grocery sacks or any sort of bag. The floor of the DCC was covered with cots that were about 1 inch apart, and the survivors had claimed the cots that were to be their beds for weeks (in some cases, months) to come. We wrote prescriptions for the medications that the people had brought with them but would soon be running out. There was a mobile, Wal-Green's pharmacy where they could get their prescriptions filled for free.In another area, folks were being treated for a variety of surgical issues.We saw lots of cuts, rashes, and fungi on the lower legs and feet. The worst of course were those who were diabetic. These people had been sloshing around in the waste water in the Superdome for days, and needed first of all to be washed down with soap and water. At one point, I went to the ladies' room, which had a significant line, and I noticed that folks were trying to sponge bathe at the sinks. Since many people were, I went to see if I could find some socks and possibly shoes. Fortunately, I found a big box of socks that had just been dropped off. I took an armful back to the triage and treatment areas and started to distribute them. While doing this I noticed a woman who just seemed to be wandering around, so I asked her how I could help. She said that she didn't have a cot. I went through the back hall and found someone who showed me the last two cots they had.On that Saturday, September 3, 2005, I went home, left my clothes in the garage and got into the shower immediately, thinking how many thousands of people would trade places with me. It was wonderful to be a part of the outpouring of necessities to people who, in many cases, had lost everything."


Stacy Covitz
Assistant Vice President of External Relations
Methodist Health System

"Eight weeks after the storm, I spent a month in New Orleans, producing WDSU-TV's 6pm newscast. I lived in a hotel in Lee Circle, along with dozens of evacuees fortunate enough to be able to live in a hotel. Those eight weeks were by far the most meaningful of my 15 year news career. The newscast aired in cities across the Gulf and Texas, and each story aired was so meaningful to survivors and evacuees living in those areas. My anchors and reporters were telling people when they could visit their homes for the first time, which animal shelters picked up new pets, when they could get government assistance. Even "fluffy" stories were vital to recovery, such as which krewes would roll on Mardi Gras or where the Saints would play football. It exemplified why I believe in the good of the media. I'm not a clinician; I would never have been able to help in ways that doctors or nurses could. Providing that vital information was my way of helping survivors."