Coach Dave Daubenmire
June 23, 2011
I promised the folks of Joplin that I would not let America forget them. I know that some of the readers of this column would like me to move on.
But I can’t.
On my way home from Joplin last week, after we had delivered our third truck load of bread, I stopped and spent the day with some friends in Springfield, Mo. There are about 70 miles between Springfield and Joplin, and I ask those assembled, Christians mind you, how many had driven the hour or so to see the devastation in Joplin.
Only a few hands went up.
Our culture has made us so apathetic to the needs of others. We watch the devastation on TV, give a few bucks to the Red Cross, and expect the god of government to take it from there.
Everyone loves to talk about the message that God is sending to America. Perhaps we should open our eyes and realize that perhaps God is speaking to the church.
Pass The Salt Ministries and The Breadman are going to keep our commitment to Joplin. We have promised a shipment of bread products every three weeks for the next six months. We can’t do it without you.
Many of you have already stepped to the plate to help. And we are grateful for your giving heart, but I believe that there are still many of you who can help us help Joplin. Pastor Art and I are a “mom and pop” operation that delivers on our promises. We will see this through to the end.
I was forwarded the following from a supporter of our Joplin outreach and I felt it was necessary that I share it with you. What you are about to read are the writings of emergency room doctor Kevin Kikta regarding the events of Sunday May 22, 2011. I have edited some of it for brevity…but will link to the entire blog. This is what is left after 45 seconds in a 200 MPH natural blender.
You never know that it will be the most important day of your life until the day is over. The day started like any other day for me: waking up, eating, going to the gym, showering, and going to my 400pm ER shift. As I drove to the hospital I mentally prepared for my shift as I always do, but nothing could ever have prepared me for what was going to happen on this shift. Things were normal for the first hour and half. At approximately 5:30 pm we received a warning that a tornado had been spotted. . Although I work in Joplin and went to medical school in Oklahoma, I live in New Jersey, and I have never seen or been in a tornado. I learned that a “code gray” was being called. We were to start bringing patients to safer spots within the ED and hospital.
At 5: 42pm a security guard yelled to everyone, “Take cover! We are about to get hit by a tornado!” I ran with a pregnant RN, Shilo Cook, while others scattered to various places, to the only place that I was familiar with in the hospital without windows, a small doctor’s office in the ED.
Together, Shilo and I tremored and huddled under a desk. We heard a loud horrifying sound like a large locomotive ripping through the hospital. The whole hospital shook and vibrated as we heard glass shattering, light bulbs popping, walls collapsing, people screaming, the ceiling caving in above us, and water pipes breaking, showering water down on everything. We suffered this in complete darkness, unaware of anyone else’s status, worried, scared. We could feel a tight pressure in our heads as the tornado annihilated the hospital and the surrounding area. The whole process took about 45 seconds, but seemed like eternity. The hospital had just taken a direct hit from a category EF-4 tornado.
Then it was over. Just 45 seconds. 45 long seconds. We looked at each other, terrified, and thanked God that we were alive. We didn’t know, but hoped that it was safe enough to go back out to the ED, find the rest of the staff and patients, and assess our loses.
“Like a bomb went off.” That’s the only way that I can describe what we saw next. Patients were coming into the ED in droves. It was absolute, utter chaos. They were limping, bleeding, crying, terrified, with debris and glass sticking out of them, just thankful to be alive. The floor was covered with about 3 inches of water, there was no power, not even backup generators, rendering it completely dark and eerie in the ED. The frightening aroma of methane gas leaking from the broken gas lines permeated the air; we knew, but did not dare mention aloud, what that meant. I redoubled my pace.
We had to use flashlights to direct ourselves to the crying and wounded. Where did all the flashlights come from ? I’ll never know, but immediately, and thankfully, my years of training in emergency procedures kicked in. There was no power, but our mental generators, were up and running, and on high test adrenaline. We had no cell phone service in the first hour, so we were not even able to call for help and backup in the ED.
I remember a patient in his early 20’s gasping for breath, telling me that he was going to die. After a quick exam, I removed the large shard of glass from his back, made the clinical diagnosis of a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and gathered supplies from wherever I could locate them to insert a thoracostomy tube in him. He was a trooper; I’ll never forget his courage. He allowed me to do this without any local anesthetic since none could be found. With his life threatening injuries I knew he was running out of time, and it had to be done. Quickly. Imagine my relief when I heard a big rush of air, and breath sounds again; fortunately, I was able to get him transported out.
I immediately moved on to the next patient, .an asthmatic in status asthmaticus. We didn’t even have the option of trying a nebulizer treatment or steroids, but I was able to get him intubated using a flashlight that I held in my mouth. A small child of approximately 3-4 years of age was crying; he had a large avulsion of skin to his neck and spine. The gaping wound revealed his cervical spine and upper thoracic spine bones. I could actually count his vertebrae with my fingers. This was a child, his whole life ahead of him, suffering life threatening wounds in front of me, his eyes pleading me to help him.. We could not find any pediatric C collars in the darkness, and water from the shattered main pipes was once again showering down upon all of us.
Fortunately, we were able to get him immobilized with towels, and start an IV with fluids and pain meds before shipping him out. We felt paralyzed and helpless ourselves. I didn’t even know a lot of the RN’s I was working with. They were from departments scattered all over the hospital. It didn’t matter. We worked as a team, determined to save lives. There were no specialists available-- my orthopedist was trapped in the OR. We were it, and we knew we had to get patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible. As we were shuffling them out, the fire department showed up and helped us to evacuate. Together we worked furiously, motivated by the knowledge and fear that the methane leaks could cause the hospital to blow up at any minute.
Things were no better outside of the ED. I saw a man crushed under a large SUV, still alive, begging for help; another one was dead, impaled by a street sign through his chest. Wounded people were walking, staggering, all over, dazed and shocked. All around us was chaos, reminding me of scenes in a war movie, or newsreels from bombings in Baghdad . Except this was right in front of me and it had happened in just 45 seconds.
My own car was blown away. Gone. Seemingly evaporated. We searched within a half mile radius later that night, but never found the car, only the littered, crumpled remains of former cars. And a John Deere tractor that had blown in from miles away.
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Tragedy has a way of revealing human goodness. As I worked , surrounded by devastation and suffering , I realized I was not alone. The people of the community of Joplin were absolutely incredible. Within minutes of the horrific event, local residents showed up in pickups and sport utility vehicles, all offering to help transport the wounded to other facilities, including Freeman, the trauma center literally across the street. Ironically, it had sustained only minimal damage and was functioning (although I’m sure overwhelmed). I carried on, grateful for the help of the community. At one point I had placed a conscious intubated patient in the back of a pickup truck with someone, a layman, for transport. The patient was self-ventilating himself, and I gave instructions to someone with absolutely no medical knowledge on how to bag the patient until they got to Freeman.
We are helping other churches and ministries connect with Pastors in Joplin. Many are interested in a short mission trip and we help make the connection. If you would like to lead a group please contact me. It will change your life. You don’t have to go over seas to “do missions.”
God has more disaster than FEMA has relief. More is on the way. Prepare your hearts.
It has already been a month. The work is just beginning. Help us help Joplin. Donate here.
Check out our trip to Joplin.
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