In September of this year, Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused terrible devastation that affected millions of people throughout Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, and Florida.
Several days after Hurricane Maria hit the island of Saint John, the administrator of the Emergency Department, Jim Scheulen, called Pathology administrator, Al Valentine, to ask for assistance with emergency relief efforts for Saint John, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea.
Laboratory reagents were desperately needed for the health clinic there.
Al immediately agreed and contacted Lydia Nelson and Brandon Tenney of the JHH Core Lab, who in turn contacted Pathology leadership at Sibley Memorial Hospital and Suburban Hospital. After a flurry of phone calls and emails over several days, Brandon, Kevin Martin, and staff packaged laboratory reagent kits from the Core Laboratories of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Sibley Memorial and Suburban Hospital, so they could be shipped cold for 48 hours to Saint John. These donated kits enabled the clinic to run metabolic and comprehensive chemistry panels on their patients.
Dianne Whyne, R.N., CEPAR Operations Director who coordinated this effort, explained that the Island normally has a population of approximately 4,500 people, but more than half had evacuated before the storms. Many started to return shortly after Hurricane Maria, and continue to return. Dianne reported that the Island’s only health care center was pretty much destroyed. However and soon after, a makeshift clinic consisting of three exam rooms, an x-ray room, a resuscitation room, and a lab was constructed to help the people.
The Hopkins Go Team, consisting of two physicians, three nurses, and a psychologist, were deployed by private jet to the Island where they stayed for 8-12 days and worked from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., treating 25-30 patients a day. Seriously ill patients were helicoptered to nearby St. Thomas Island which has a hospital.
Diane explained that this mission was arranged in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies which is headed by Michael Bloomberg, the generous sponsor of the Bloomberg Children’s Center here at Johns Hopkins.
The Department of Pathology was happy to help in this humanitarian relief effort to the people of Saint John who are slowly rebuilding their lives.