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New Orleans Ritz Carlton Turns Into MASH Unit

Posted by: David Kiley on September 2, 2005

This from a resident of the Ritz. A lucky man.

Thursday, September 01, 2005
Katrina: A Physician’s Report from The Middle of New Orleans

This e-mail just came in from Gregory Henderson, a physician in New Orleans:

From: Gregory S. Henderson MD, PhD
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2005 20:21:55 -0500
Subject: Re: thoughts and prayers

Thanks to all of you who have sent your notes of concern and your prayers. I am writing this note on Tuesday at 2PM . I wanted to update all of you as to the situation here. I don’t know how much information you are getting but I am certain it is more than we are getting. Be advised that almost everything I am telling you is from direct observation or rumor from reasonable sources. They are allowing limited internet access, so I hope to send this dispatch today.

Personally, my family and I are fine. My family is safe in Jackson, MS, and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans. I figured if it was my time to go, I wanted to go in a place with a good wine list. In addition, this hotel is in a very old building on Canal Street that could and did sustain little damage. Many of the other hotels sustained significant loss of windows, and we expect that many of the guests may be evacuated here.

Things were obviously bad yesterday, but they are much worse today. Overnight the water arrived. Now Canal Street (true to its origins) is indeed a canal. The first floor of all downtown buildings is underwater. I have heard that Charity Hospital and Tulane are limited in their ability to care for patients because of water. Ochsner is the only hospital that remains fully functional. However, I spoke with them today and they too are on generator and losing food and water fast. The city now has no clean water, no sewerage system, no electricity, and no real communications. Bodies are still being recovered floating in the floods. We are worried about a cholera epidemic. Even the police are without effective communications. We have a group of armed police here with us at the hotel that are admirably trying to exert some local law enforcement. This is tough because looting is now rampant. Most of it is not malicious looting. These are poor and desperate people with no housing and no medical care and no food or water trying to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the people are armed and dangerous. We hear gunshots frequently. Most of Canal street is occupied by armed looters who have a low threshold for discharging their weapons. We hear gunshots frequently. The looters are using makeshift boats made of pieces of styrofoam to access. We are still waiting for a significant national guard presence.

The health care situation here has dramatically worsened overnight. Many people in the hotel are elderly and small children. Many other guests have unusual diseases. We have commandered the world famous French Quarter Bar to turn into an makeshift clinic. There is a team of about 7 doctors and PA and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be the major medical facility in the central business district and French Quarter.

Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into gargace bags and removed them. All under police excort. The looters had to be held back at gun point.

In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the the French Qarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. We are anticipating to dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water shortages are iminent.

The biggest question to all of us is where is the national guard. We hear jet fignters and helicopters, but no real armed presence, and hence the rampant looting. There is no Red Cross and no salvation army.

In a sort of cliche way, this is an edifying experience. Once is rapidly focused away from the transient and material to the bare necessities of life. It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care phyisican. We are under martial law so return to our homes is impossible. I don’t know how long it will be and this is my greatest fear. Despite it all, this is a soul edifying experience. The greatest pain is to think about the loss. And how long the rebuild will [take]. And the horror of so many dead people .

PLEASE SEND THIS DISPATCH TO ALL YOU THINK MAY BE INTERSTED IN A DISPATCH From the front. I will send more according to your interest. Hopefully their collective prayers will be answered. By the way suture packs, sterile gloves and stethoscopes will be needed as the Ritz turns into a MASH.

Greg Henderson

Reader Comments

Yvonne Wohlers

September 2, 2005 8:06 PM

Thank you! Informative with welcome touches of humor.

Antoinette Freeman Chopin

September 3, 2005 1:28 AM

We are trying to locate two people that were staying at the Ritz Carlton. Their names are: Ruby Lama & Kathy Liccaro. We are trying to make sure that they are still alive & safe. Please help us locate these family members. We are very worried.
Antoinette Freeman Chopin

mike dooley

September 3, 2005 9:06 PM

Dr. Henderson,
You posted your message on Thurs. 1st. Have things improved and if not is the list of things you mentioned still in need. Do you need to add more to the list? I know people here in Milwaukee in postions in hospitals that may be able to help.

Please keep me posted if you can.
Mike Dooley
Milwaukee, WI

NOLA doc

September 4, 2005 10:09 PM

i am writing in response to the letter from dr. greg henderson. parts of what he told are indeed true and heartwrenching. true: there were dedicated, compassionate HIV doctors from chicago and beyond who set up a MASH unit in the hotel restaurant. true: those doctors did brave looters and sewage to cross canal street to procure vital medicinces and supplies for needy patients back at the hotel.

False: dr. henderson was NOT a part of the clinic. he did not see patients or help in any way. he did not cross the street to help gather medications.

true: he was caught be members of the medical team stealing narcotics and other psychotropic medications for his personal use. he was asked to leave but was seen multiple times lurking about the clinic presumably trying to regain access so he could steal more controlled medications. true: he was seen on multiple occassions with an altered mental status (presumably after ingesting the medications he stole).

he exhibited the worst of human behavior at a time when we as a community needed him the most. anyone who knows him should encourage him to seek drug treatment and the state licensing board in his home state should be notified to perfom an investigation.


September 4, 2005 11:10 PM

This to the mayor of New Orleans and other indignant government official regarding their anger at the Federal level response to the disaster in LA.

I just watched a televised comment on CNN from the Mayor of New Orleans where he said, "This should never happen". He went on to voice his anger that assistance has been too slow and inadequate. Additionally, that there was no way he could have seen the current situation coming.

As recently as last October the National Geographic Magazine circulated a thorough to the point article regarding the catastrophic threat to New Orleans from a hurricane. Furthermore, it included a detailed representation and historic graphic regarding the levee threat. Anyone with any doubt or indignation regarding perceived inadequate preparation and/or response from anyone regarding the current situation from Hurrican Katrina need blame NO ONE other than themselves. This has been a known devastating disaster waiting to happen for a very long time. It has been none other than the current and previous mayors' decisions to turn a blind eye to the necessarily cumbersome battles required to prevent what is now happening in hopes of postponing the inevitable until the next elected officals' term.

Harsh words, I know, but it's time for the mayor, governor, senator and others to stop passing the buck and face the music. As enormously difficult as it would have been, a forced evacuation based on eminent domain backed by health officials a long time ago to fix the many problems that caused so much erosion and threat to the area would have been far simpler than the current debaucle.

I am not a heartless retch who thinks New Orleans deserves what it has. Not by a long shot. I know those scores of uneducated residents probably could not have known the full scale of what loomed in front of them. Indeed, I have contributed a sizable chunk of our family's income this month to Habitat for Humanity to go towards rebuilding homes for those poor souls who are now homeless. I just hope that the homes rebuilt for them will be in northern Louisiana instead of anywhere south of 100 miles north of Baton Rouge. Many people have a real problem with their tax payer's dollars going to FEMA to repair and replace homes in a natural disaster zone only to be decimated again in the next storm.

Scott Williams

September 5, 2005 11:45 AM

It appears the "dispatch" email from Dr. Henderson in New Orleans may be a fake. The email refers to "the world famous French Quarter Bar." A quick look up on an online phone directory shows no such place. Also, note the comments from a New Orleans native posted here:

I suggest these email ciculations be checked out more thoroughly before passing them along.

NOLA doc

September 5, 2005 8:17 PM

i still have not seen a comment regarding the criminal and fraudulent activities conducted by this dr. henderson. i sent a blog comment yesterday revealing his factitious account of the events at the ritz. please expose this fraudulent and dangerous man.

a concerned MD from NOLA

Kurt Knutsson

September 17, 2005 9:12 AM

Just reading these bogus claims of this doctor who says that he helped patients while going through Hurricane Katrina at the Ritz Carlton New Orleans. I am a journalist who was there in the same hotel. This doctor did not help patients, but instead was kicked out of the medical effort by the small group of hardworking physicians and ultimately from the hotel for stealing drugs (narcotics) from the makeshift hospital.

Let the record stand corrected.

Kurt Knutsson
syndicated reporter
KTLA-TV Los Angeles

Kosta Demos

October 5, 2005 5:35 PM

These bizarre and fraudulent slurs against Dr. Henderson's character (obvious double blind internet propaganda) are just more proof that the cabal of thugs currently holding our government hostage will stop at nothing in their pathetic attempt to evade their responsibility for the destruction of an entire city. Greg Henderson is an internationally renowned physician, raised in New Orleans, who, despite social advantages that allowed him ample opportunities to evacuate, remained in the city in order to provide aid to his fellow citizens.

Responsible media outlets, whether in print or on-line, have an obligation to vet potentially slanderous information before circulation. Dr. Henderson is owed an apology.

Celia Swender

October 12, 2005 10:06 PM

I am writing to try and clear up two issues: Was Dr. Henderson's dispatch genuine, and what about the ugly comments raised by an anonymous, vicious poster everywhere he could find the desperate email fired off by Dr. Greg Henderson: One of the first posts "from the front," New Orleans during the flood. I first met Greg Henderson 25 years ago, and I can assure you, "Anonymous, Slyboots, NOLA doc" as he has styled himself, who is posting all over the web where ever he can find Dr. Henderson's first courageous dispatch from New Orleans, could not be more wrong. I asked Dr. Henderson if comments were completely made up, or if anything could have even occurred that could have been misinterpreted. I asked him if he remembered "Slyboots" (God, doesn't the name just say it all?) Here is his answer in his own words. Also his father and sister can say it better than I can, so I am forwarding their posts to you as well, in hopes that you will make every effort to correct the libelous accusations this cowardly poster is trying to disseminate.

Thank you in advance for setting the record straight,

Celia Swender

From Dr. Henderson:

He is a liar. I am pretty sure he was one of the docs who I worked with to set up the first clinic in the Ritz Carleton. They were the ones that high-tailed it out of town as soon as the Ritz Carleton got them a bus. They all seemed very impressed with themselves after they let me and the police officers and one of the pharamacists raid the Walgreens with gunpoint protection by the police. They set up a very nice little clinic and dealt with medication refills and some cuts and bruises for 1 day until they bailed out. Then it was left to me to, with the help of the NOPD, raid yet another pharmacy and restart the whole process again in the Sheraton and run it singlehandedely. This evolved to treating people under police guard at the convention center, and organizing the civilian medical treatment and evacuation station with the help of Northwest Medical Teams. Each of these efforts could have valued greatly from the presence of some of their primary care skills. I guess all while they were back home in their big city apartments slapping themselves on the ass for the daringly good job that they have done. In my opinion every one of them ran in the face of danger, and for that reason I consider them to be a disgrace to their profession. You can put me on the blog record on that one and send it on to slyboots himself. People of action like Dr. Dan Diamond and Dr. Juliette Saussy and the 5th district police officers were the real people who came to the rescue and helped me help the police and the people at the convention center. Ask all of them for the real account. Hope the vision of the people who died at the convention center after he left doesn't keep him up at night as long as it will haunt me.

Dr. Gregory S. Henderson, M.D., Ph.D.

From his father:

Dr. Gregory Henderson is my son and to set the record straight he was a practicing pathologist at New Hanover Regional Medcal Center in Wilmington, NC. He moved to New Orleans in August to take a position as pathologist with Ochsner Foundation Hospital. He went to the Ritz Carlton on 8/26 for a planning retreat sponsored by Ochsner. This retreat ended at noon on 8/27 but he made arrangements with the hotel to return on 8/28 to ride-out the storm. My wife and I were in New Orleans and we evacuated his wife and two young daughters back to Jackson, MS. We have been in periodic contact with him and the information on the internet posted by him and the news media that have been covering the story is factual. I would hope that JT would post his name and address so that one might respond to his scurrilous and libelous comments.

Julian C. Henderson, MD
Father of a true hero

From his sister:

I would like to personally thank whoever is defending my brother, Dr. Greg Henderson. My brother risked his own safety to aid thousands and thousands of people at the Convention Center. Our whole family has been actively calling people and forwarding his emails in an effort to get him some help and to help him get out. He had the opportunity to leave several time, but refused to do anything for himself until the people at the Convention Center were evacuated. When help finally did begin to arrive on Saturday, he collapsed from dehydration and exhaustion. After 12 hours on an IV, he went back to the Convention Center to make sure people were alright -- he stayed to assist with any patients coming in as people continued to be extracated from their flooded homes. Whoever thinks his messages are a for "his personal gain', provides a clear example of the cruelty and cynicism that so permeates our society ... the very type of cruelty that somehow facilitated the tragic stories coming out of New Orleans."

Katherine Michalak

Mr C.E., England

October 31, 2005 5:44 PM

I've just watched a documentary featuring Dr Henderson about the appalling aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I went on the net to find out more. How deeply depressing this all is. Dr Henderson said in the documentary (Dispatches, Channel 4, England, aired 31/10/2005) that the lack of help showed up the inadequacies of the city, state and federal governments (and equally the resourcefulness and kindness of the American people who acted independently to help their fellows).

He seemed genuine to me. But this site's shocking interrogation of his worthiness is symptomatic of the malaise we've already witnessed in the lost city. Who is behind the character assasination and why are they bothering, anyway. Who profits from it? Stand up, the government organisations he decries.

We have had to watch this abandonment of the vulnerable people to at last understand American foreign policy. It is merely a continuation of domestic policy.
C.E., England

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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