Mobile Unit Treats Patients Outside Tornado-Damaged Joplin Hospital

Monday, May 30th 2011, 12:21 pm
By: News On 6

Emily Baucum, News on 6

JOPLIN, Missouri -- St. John's Hospital in Joplin remains in tatters. Doctors and nurses have sat on the sidelines for a week, but Sunday they began helping patients again.

Doctors, nurses, and medical staff mobilized into action, navigating tunnels of triage units; a makeshift hospital inside a reinforced tent.

A military team built the facility in two days. Because Joplin looks like a war zone, the tent is nicknamed the M.A.S.H. unit.

"We don't want to call it that but that's what the military calls it. A mobile surgical hospital," Bill Dodson with St. John's Hospital said.

The tent stood in the shadow of the wind-ravaged shell of a hospital. The halls are littered with debris and painful memories.

"[There were] literally dozens of people laying in gurneys," said Dr. Dave Hagedorn. "We were without needles. We were without syringes. We were out of basic medications."

The people of Joplin have never needed medical care more, but hospital resources are stretched thin as employees become patients.

To tornado hit hospital emergency room employee Jill Howard's house. She and her four sons huddled together in a tiny closet.

"I heard the sound of the tornado. The freight train sound that everyone describes," said Howard. "Suddenly the closet door was off its hinges and I grabbed it to keep us protected."

Howard has emotional and physical scars from the storm.

"I've got a gash about three inches wide and probably an inch, inch-and-a-half deep. They think it was the nails. I don't know. I didn't even know I was bleeding until my boys told me I was bleeding."

St. John's is prepared to stay in the facility for as long as it takes for the original hospital to be rebuilt.