The View Today
As I write this in March, it has been 10 months since the deadly Joplin tornado killed 160 people and destroyed hundreds of homes. The city is beginning to stand on her feet again. Most of the wreckage has been cleared, and the landscape is now dotted with new structures. A significant number of businesses have been rebuilt, and consumers are patronizing them again. Though the winter was mild, spring storms have now begun in earnest, with thunderstorm and flash flood warnings and, yes, a few tornado watches.
St. John’s Regional Medical Center, now St. John’s Mercy Hospital, continues to operate out of modular structures similar to double-wide trailers. They have a total of 40 inpatient beds (including 10 ICU beds). They see ER patients in 15 small rooms for now, but will soon occupy a “component hospital” being constructed to the south of the modular facility. This will be their home for the next two years as a new permanent hospital facility is built approximately two miles away.
EMS and fire personnel have long since regrouped and are now performing at normal capacity. The tornado destroyed the homes of four firefighters (including the fire chief) and three paramedics with METS. No deaths or significant injuries occurred that night to emergency personnel. There was loss of some fire apparatus and two fire stations. Apparatus have been replaced or repaired, and new fire stations are under construction.
Joplin has survived, for the most part, and will continue to make strides in the years to come—due in no small part to its people and the emergency personnel who serve them.
For the eight biggest lessons learned from the tornado, see the companion piece in the May issue of EMS World Magazine.
The day after the tornado, while helping direct traffic through the destruction zone, a young police officer who arrived to help from Riverside, Mo., was struck by lightning. Fellow police officers and EMS providers started CPR immediately and transported him to Freeman West Hospital, where he was successfully resuscitated. He was subsequently transferred to the closest burn center, 60 miles away, but succumbed to his injuries 12 days later. The sacrifice this young officer gave in helping Joplin in its time of need cannot be forgotten.
Jim Morgan, DO, is the EMS medical director for Joplin, MO. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.