Clinic members heading to New Orleans
Tonganoxie physician, medical assistant to work with hurricane victims
Help from Tonganoxie again is on the way to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Dr. Bill Weatherford of Family Medicine of Tonganoxie, and Ben Legler, medical assistant at the clinic, left Sunday for New Orleans.
They started assisting patients Monday. The volunteer work will last five days, Weatherford said.
Regina Heidner, a nurse practitioner from Mount Oread Clinic in Lawrence, is filling in for Weatherford.
While in New Orleans, Weatherford and Legler are assisting patients with immunizations and filling prescriptions. They also are treating patients for common colds and injuries.
"If you're sick enough to be in the hospital you're OK, but if you're not sick enough to go to the hospital, it fills in the gap," Weatherford said last week.
Hospitals are up and running in the New Orleans area, Weatherford said, but it's the medical clinics, many of which still do not have electricity, that are not available to the public.
"For average health-care needs that you just don't need to use the hospital, there's nowhere to go," Weatherford said.
This week, Weatherford and Legler are working out of a semi-trailer parked near Pillsbury Health Clinic in New Orleans.
"The clinic itself does not have power and is not considered safe," Weatherford said.
About six weeks ago, Weatherford heard through a family friend that the Heart-to-Heart organization was recruiting medical volunteers to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
He mentioned he'd be interested in volunteering. Recently, Weatherford received a call asking for his help.
"They said they would like to have me," Weatherford said.
Legler also volunteered to help assist patients in New Orleans. The Lawrence native said he was eager to help.
"The first time he said anything to me, I said, 'That would be awesome,'" Legler said about discussions with Weatherford. "I honestly don't know what to expect. But I think it will be a good experience for me, something helpful for people.
"And to see a natural disaster that close up. It's not something you get to see every day."
Health officials in New Orleans told Weatherford that the clinic sees about 40 patients per day.
"It's a lot of what I would be taking care of here," Weatherford said. "Primary care things."
The clinic Weatherford and Legler are working at is a free clinic. Weatherford said patients who normally use the free clinics are residents "most severely affected by the hurricane."
It's been nearly two months since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, but residents continue to deal with the effects of the natural disaster that caused considerable damage to New Orleans.
"From what I've heard, it's still pretty rough," Weatherford said. "It's livable, but not what we have here.
"Every day, their water's a little better."
It's five days of volunteer work Weatherford and Legler likely won't forget.
"It's going to be a lot of hard work, but I think it will be enjoyable, and fulfilling," Weatherford said.
Legler agreed with the Tonganoxie physician.
"It's going to probably fly by," Legler said. "It will be fulfilling.