Storm Stories - Veterinarians share their trials following back-to-back hurricanes - DVM
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Storm Stories - Veterinarians share their trials following back-to-back hurricanes


Pugh says living is very primitive in hurricane-hit areas. "You sweat all day, then take freezing-cold showers because there's nothing to heat the water."

Pugh wants to get back to practicing as soon as possible, he says. Until then, he donated his time to help deliver generators to veterinary practices in the area, courtesy of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA).

Jasper, Texas

Gusts from Hurricane Rita shoved a veterinary clinic wall 8-inches off its foundation. Dr. Roy Smathers recounts the story as he took shelter at the hospital with his wife, son and brother-in-law.

"I have been in practice here for 15 years and have never seen this kind of damage," Smathers says. "During the storm, we were constantly hearing noise; it sounded like the inside of a washing machine."

The Fain and Smathers Veterinary Hospital boarded 60 animals during the storm. Despite rising water in the kennel, the animals all survived, Smathers says.

"We were sitting in the dark listening to everything happening outside," he adds. "It was unseasonably hot, and the humidity was at tropical levels. I was very concerned with what might happen, but we all remained pretty calm. We'd hear a horrible noise, then see a big piece of metal flying past a window."

The hospital will need repairs to several areas, Smathers says. But flooding remained minimal, and the animals weathered the storm. Trees litter the ground surrounding the practice and his home, but overall, Smathers considers himself fortunate.

"I have been open for business, but at a lower level than usual considering there's no electricity; therefore no X-ray or blood chemistry machines," he says. "I've been euthanizing a lot of older animals that cannot bear the heat; many are suffering from pneumonia. Other cases involve massive hot spots, lacerations and broken bones."

Since the building did not sustain serious structural damage, Smathers and his partner, Dr. David Fain, plan to be mostly back to business as usual as soon as the electricity returns.

"Everything takes three times as much effort as usual because of the power outages and heat," Smathers says. "But returning to the normal routine will be the best therapy for everyone that endured these hurricanes."

Winnie, Texas

Dr. Sarah Aucoin-Matak predicts it will take more than a year for this area to recover from Rita's winds and rain.

Matak, an associate veterinarian, returned to the practice right after the storm and witnessed its destructive forces.

The Winnie office and sister hospital, the Dowlen Road Veterinary Center in Beaumont, Texas, stayed open through the storm, housing 106 animals at the Beaumont location.

The mixed animal practice had no power or running water, but veterinarians and some staff members kept the clinic open to help those in need.

"It felt really good to help people take care of at least one of their problems," Matak says. "They could bring their pet to us and know it would be taken care of."

Matak recalls treating horses for heat stroke, lacerations, rope burns and ophthalmic ulcers from sand.

"People think there aren't problems in Texas because Rita wasn't as bad as Katrina, but it will be more than a year before things can return to normal," she says.

Matak predicts production for the hospitals will be down because of the lack of electricity and temporary population decrease, but credits TVMA for helping area practitioners get back to normalcy by delivering generators, gas, food and veterinary medical supplies.

"People really pulled together with the storm," Matak says. "It was rough on many practices but was hard on the animals, too."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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