'The real story was neighbors helping neighbors'
On Sunday, as waters were rising on streets near his Memorial neighborhood in Houston, Stefan Kreuzer, MD, MSc, and friend Brian Dominguez, ventured out in a large truck to salvage food from Brian's house, which had lost electricity. On the way, Dr. Kreuzer sent a text to one of his patients—a woman for whom he had done a hip replacement about a month prior to Hurricane Harvey. She replied with a photo showing water halfway up her front door. She was on the second story making her way to her roof to await rescue from the Coast Guard, which she already called. She told Dr. Kreuzer not to try to come by because of the high water.
Then a group text came from Brian's wife, Angie, letting them know that an acquaintance, Truett Allen, was preparing to launch his boat onto flooded streets of the Meyerland district.
"We met him at the interstate and launched the boat from the pavement," Dr. Kreuzer recalled. "We rode it to the neighborhood where my patient was and to her house. Her husband was on the roof, and they had help signs on the windows for the Coast Guard. We threw a rope to him, and he pulled the boat in. I got to the front door, and they waded through the water to the downstairs to the front door."
Dr. Kreuzer carried his patient on his back to the boat. She and her husband had a suitcase and a purse, into which they had placed some personal items.
He noted that the rescue happened around noon. "At around 8:30 p.m. that night, my patient got a call from the Coast Guard that they were ready to come get her," he said.
Of the Harvey experience overall, Dr. Kreuzer said, "What may have been the real story was neighbors helping neighbors. I was in the car with the right person who knew the right person who was doing an act of good for people. Those acts were going on minute by minute. I'd venture to say that 80 percent of rescues were by people without a badge. That was so important in limiting the loss of life."
Communication is what either limited or assisted rescue efforts. Social media, according to Dr. Kreuzer, was an invaluable resource in communicating where help was needed. "If you didn't have a boat, it was frustrating because you couldn't get out and help. But through Facebook, we'd hear that a shelter needed underwear and socks or baby food, and then we'd go to a store that was still open, buy the items in need, and deliver them to the shelter. When I was at a Target, I saw four other people that I knew buying supplies for other people. The messages got out and people helped, which was really neat to see."
While Dr. Kreuzer's home was spared, others in his practice were not as fortunate. One of the operating room nurses lost her house and two cars to the flood. He said that a number of his surgeon colleagues around the country responded generously with contributions—$50,000 so far—to a crowdfunding website he started for the nurses and other staff at his private hip and knee replacement practice.