CEO Mike Warren of Children's Hospital in Birmingham said looking back that in the hospital's nearly 100 year history it was possibly "...the largest number of trauma patients and the most acutely injured patients in the history of the hospital." He was referring to the influx of more than 60 children in the aftermath of Alabama's historic tornado outbreak last Wednesday.
"I've only been here about 3 and a half years...and I must tell you that the experience I had...was nothing short of amazing," Warren said. Physicians, nurses, therapists, chaplains, "and even a few administrators that were trying to stay out of the way," worked as a team he beamed.
A week later, 14 children remain hospitalized. 10 of them are in some type of critical care, Warren said.
Warren was joined for a news conference Thursday by Dr. Margaret Winkler of the hospital's critical care division along with Dr. Steven Baldwin of the emergency department who provided medical updates.
Dr. Baldwin said even after the initial influx of the first 24 hours, they continue to see a steady, mild to moderate flow of patients. The reasons are numerous; the loss of regular care because of power outages, displacement from usual surrounding and need for medications, and due to debris and clean up efforts.
In all, eleven patients were admitted to the Pediatric ICU because of direct tornado related injuries, said Dr. Winkler. A total of 23 admissions for all types of injuries were listed.
Dr. Winkler reports that only 3 children remain in pediatric ICU. Two others remain in the burn unit and an additional 5 are in the special care unit.
"We didn't even know the children's names in many cases," Dr. Winkler said of the chaos. All the patients were tracked with numbers until they could be identified. Within 24 hours, however, each of the young patients had a name and verifiable family members.
Initially, many of the children were too sick to react to their doctors and nurse, but one boy after being taken off a ventilator, said he remembered what happened and wanted his family.
Grief council is being offered to many of the victims. A councilor said one child was not able to go to family funerals and traumatic events are deeply disturbing, especially to children.
"Just as the physical part of this, the houses that have been damaged and destroyed, will take weeks and months and in some cases years to repair or replace, when you think about the lives of people impacted, particularly the lives of children..., it too is going to take weeks and months and years..." Warren said.
The hospital says there are lessons to be learned but overall, "our response worked, and it worked extremely well," according to Dr. Baldwin.
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