New Orleans residents appreciative of local help
New Orleans city officials were talking about Bill Weatherford and Ben Legler.
Weatherford, physician at Family Medicine of Tonganoxie, and Legler, Weatherford's medical assistant, volunteered last week at a medical clinic in New Orleans through the Heart-to-Heart organization.
¢ Dr. Bill Weatherford of Family Medicine of Tonganoxie is starting a sweater/sweatshirt drive for Hurricane Katrina victims.
¢ Residents may donate sweaters and sweatshirts by dropping them off at the medical clinic, 410 Woodfield Drive, just south of First State Bank and Trust on U.S. Highway 24-40.
¢ "The weather is cooling off down in New Orleans and most of the people have lost all of their cool weather clothing," Weatherford said.
¢ Weatherford and medical assistant Ben Legler volunteered last week in New Orleans providing primary health care to Hurricane Katrina victims.
¢ A date on which the clothing will be sent to Louisiana hasn't been set.
Weatherford said he was told his and Legler's names were mentioned frequently in city meetings. Weatherford and Legler were at the only medical trailer providing primary care in the city last week, Weatherford said. Military units provided some medical care throughout the city, but it was the trailer, parked outside a New Orleans clinic, that had the most patients.
"We were the only mobile trailer I know of," Weatherford said. "There were a couple of M.A.S.H. units. The military was giving some medical assistance. And I'm sure there had to be other medical groups around doing something."
Weatherford and Legler had "a lot of referrals" from hospitals.
"Everyone was told to come and see us," Weatherford said.
Another doctor assisted at the trailer the first day Weatherford and Legler were in New Orleans, but for the next four days, they were the only medical personnel treating patients.
"I personally saw over 200 people in four and a half days," Weatherford said, including 53 on one of those days.
Weatherford said he and Legler together saw roughly 400 patients.
They gave several tetanus and hepatitis B shots, Weatherford said.
"It was great," Weatherford said. "It was very busy."
Although some hospitals are open in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, few clinics are operational. The trailer that Weatherford and Legler worked at was parked outside a clinic that still does not have power and is not considered safe.
"You get the impression that everything's getting back to normal or getting that way, but it's far from the truth," Weatherford said. "It's still chaotic down there."
More and more people who initially evacuated the city now are making their way back to New Orleans.
"I think we were really appreciated down there," Weatherford said. "It's not that we did anything special, it's just that there was a need and very few people down there are filling that need."
Both Weatherford and Legler were impressed with the patients they saw while in Louisiana.
"Just the situation, the plight the people were in, just losing everything," Legler said. "It was amazing how appreciative and courteous they were with how down they were."
Legler plans to volunteer in New Orleans again around Thanksgiving, while Weatherford hopes to volunteer again, possibly some weekend this winter.
"I would love to," Weatherford said about volunteering again. "Ben wasn't ready to come home. I wasn't either, except I wanted to see my family."
In less than a month, Legler will return to New Orleans to help more people.
"It just felt like you were doing a lot of good work down there," Legler said. "At the end of the day you felt like you put in a helpful day. But at the same time there's a lot that needs to be done and lot of things that could be done."
Weatherford urged other area physicians to volunteer with Heart-to-Heart as well.
"I think if there's anybody else in the medical field who wants to volunteer I think there's still a big need," Weatherford said.