None of us have escaped the broadcast of updates on the earth-shattering impact of Hurricane Katrina. For Mark Gartman, a Gambro employee based in Abita Springs, Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina hit close to home.
Mark is a registered nurse who trains hospital staff on Gambro machines like the Phoenix(r) System. Hewas into his first week of a two week training session in Pascagoula, Mississipi, a city right on the Gulf Coast. The Singing River Dialysis Clinic was working as fast as they could to prepare patients for treatment,running dialysis non-stop for 18 hours straight to help keep them in stable condition. Their next
treatment would likely be stalled due to the hurricane, which can be very serious for dialysis patients. As you can imagine having new machinery and a staff only half-way through training created even more of an emergency. “They all did a great job working together under tremendous pressure,” said Mark. It didn’t take long before they were sent notice to evacuate. Mark headed north with his wife and three children to stay with family until allowed back home. His elevated river-front home was hit by several
tornadoes that ravaged the area as a by product of the hurricane.
Once home, they spent the next several weeks traveling 2 hours back and forth to the closest town that had gas, groceries, and electricity. Located just north of Lake Pontchatrain, their home sits in a forest with hundreds of trees. “We lost 80 to 100 trees throughout our property,” Mark describes. “Our 90 feet tall oak and pine trees were strewn like lumber on the ground. It took 3 days using chain saws, heavy equipment, and many exhausted neighbors just to saw through the rubble on my driveway to get to the house. Three trees fell directly on the house. One tree went right through the roof, leaving our living room unusable.”
The front of the house is now blocked off with plywood and covered with tarps. His family resides in the rest of the house until insurance comes through and repairs are made. “We finally had electricity after three weeks. Until then we traveled to the National Guard station that was set up to distribute water, ice and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat),” Mark said.
Like many homes and businesses in the area, the hospital in Pascagoula lost their electricity. They were able to resume use of their Phoenix System by using a generator and clean water that was brought in by truck, and Mark just recently finished their training. An Ocean Springs clinic lost its Phoenix System because it was destroyed in the hurricane, so they are now running all their patients through the Pascagoula clinic, that is thankfully only two miles away. “Many staff members lost everything, including their homes. But they got the clinic up and running as soon as they could to take care of their patients,” Mark shared.
Traveling to visit relatives for Thanksgiving, Mark and his family drove the main interstate through New Orleans. “It’s just unbelievable, both sides of the interstate look like a ghost town. There is dirt and mud everywhere, and cars sitting on fences. You can’t really get the impact without seeing it first hand.”
Mark is very thankful for the support that Gambro offered his family through this tremendous ordeal. “They gave me five weeks off of work, which was so helpful. They also provided financial support from the Employee Catastrophic Fund. And,” Mark continued, “because flights are so limited, and the hotels in southern Mississippi and Louisiana are damaged, they rearranged my schedule so I can stay close to home
to be with my family and continue the work of getting our lives back to normal.”