HHI Responds to Hurricane Michael

Right before the deployment of the disaster response team to Hurricane Michael, HHI Laboratory Programs Manager Judy Hastert was working hard to get an Abbott i-STAT device (a handheld blood analyzer pictured here) ready for the response.  The analyzer needed a software update before it could go with the team to Florida, so Hastert reached out to an expert at Shawnee Mission Health who got it updated and ready to go.

The i-STAT system proved invaluable when a 46-year-old male patient came in to Heart to Heart International’s mobile medical unit feeling light-headed with heart palpitations. He had been working in the sun but his vital signs showed a mild drop in blood pressure when he went from lying down to standing. His EKG showed no abnormality, so the HHI team started an IV and gave him a liter of fluid.

They then ran the i-STAT to check that his hemoglobin and electrolytes were normal. After more questioning, the team discovered that he had lost a prescription medicine in the storm. Most of his symptoms were due to a combination of abruptly stopping this medication and dehydration.

Because we have the i-STAT from Abbott, the medical team was able to rule out other life-threatening issues and find and treat the real causes of the man’s symptoms.



As of October 22nd, 2018, HHI teams worked out of multiple locations through this past weekend. The MMU remained stationed at Deane Bozeman school shelter, providing the main clinic location and where the more serious cases involving sutures, etc. were directed to.

Secondary locations included clinics at St. John the Evangelist and St. Dominic’s. These included tetanus vaccinations and basic medical care.

Another team of providers and nurses traveled with the Florida Department of Health into Mexico City Beach to provide care and deliver hygiene kits to those affected by the storm in that community. Mexico City Beach received massive destruction from Hurricane Michael, and the HHI team saw a lot firsthand.

The teams have seen patients with a variety of medical needs, including: a boy who hurt his arm jumping on a bed and an 81-year-old woman without power who thought she had pneumonia, also many people with respiratory issues, infections and insect stings/bites, as well as people in need of wound care and medication refills.

The first volunteer team departed Florida throughout the weekend as the second team arrived. HHI is incredibly grateful for the time and work that all our volunteers devote to make disaster responses like this one possible.

More updates to follow. 

October 17, 2018 – 122,119 people are reported without power. Cell service remains intermittent throughout the affected areas.

HHI medical teams continue working at the MMU in front of Deane Bozeman school shelter. An additional HHI provider is working inside the shelter as well. The team is scheduled to remain on site through the week.

On October 17, HHI was contacted by Storm Services, a company coordinating the logistics for the lineman in Florida repairing the downed power lines. The company and HHI coordinated so should medical issues arise, the workers knew where the MMU was located and could go to it for treatment. These workers have been working around the clock to get power back on for these communities, and the exhaustion and heat was taking a toll on some of the workers. The first patient was brought to HHI in the early afternoon with a head laceration.

In another case of treating first responders, a national guardsman was attending a training session at Deane Bozeman when he was stung by a yellow jacket. He went into anaphylactic shock. The HHI medical team rushed to him, administered an epi pen, then IV antibiotics in order to stabilize him before the EMTs transported him to the hospital. While one team was seeing patients at the MMU, another team worked at St. John the Evangelist church also in Panama City. A third team traveled with the department of health into Mexico City Beach to provide tetanus vaccines.

As of October 16, HHI has treated 242 patients and administered 130 tetanus vaccines.

More updates to follow.

October 16, 2018 – HHI medical teams worked at the MMU at Deane Bozeman high school shelter, providing care for more than 100 patients on October 15. This included administering tetanus vaccines for 35 patients.

Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that affects a person’s nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions, particularly of the jaw and neck muscles. Tetanus can interfere with a person’s ability to breathe and can threaten their life. There is no cure for tetanus, and it is transmitted through contamination of wounds. Because of this, tetanus vaccinations are incredibly important after a disaster when the ground is littered with dirt and debris.

That is the reason Kimberly Mutter came to HHI after Hurricane Michael. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, her son started experiencing seizures. She walked with all three of her sons through flood waters to reach a hospital. On that incredibly harrowing journey, she stepped on a rusty nail. She came to HHI to have her foot examined. The team examined her foot, cleaned it, and administered a tetanus vaccine.

In addition to seeing patients, HHI has also sent: 2,700 hygiene kits (assembled by EcoLab and Praxair and delivered to Save the Children and Convoy of Hope) and 7 skids of water (donated by Olathe Ford and delivered to Convoy of Hope).

October 15, 2018 – Despite a difficult trip involving many downed power lines and road closures, the HHI team has positioned the Mobile Medical Unit in Panama City, Florida, at Deane Bozeman High School.

This school is designated as a “special needs shelter,” meaning people in need of specialized care who found by search and rescue were brought to this location. On Saturday, October 13, HHI processed 50 patients through the shelter, which involved assessing the patient’s diagnosis and determining what care facility would be able to take them and best be able to meet their needs. Some of the stories of these patients included:

  • One woman on home hospice who was the caregiver for her husband who had suffered a TBI. She couldn’t get him to evacuate, so they stayed in their home, but then were rescued after it was destroyed.
  • One man was a paraplegic who had an ulcer and had been prematurely discharged from a hospital without the proper antibiotics.
  • One man had an open fracture of the hand, which was badly infected and needed surgery. The HHI team cleaned out the infection and arranged for transport to a hospital facility.

While the HHI doctor processed these patients, a caravan of ambulances were waiting outside to take each patient to the designated proper care facility. An HHI team of one nurse and one EMT supported IMC clinics for two days, while inside the MMU, HHI doctors and nurses saw more than 60 patients. These included diabetes care, wound care, upper respiratory issues, skin conditions, prescription refills, infections, and tetanus vaccinations

On October 16, HHI will partner with Catholic Charities to conduct an outreach clinic at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church

More updates to follow.


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October 14th, 2018 –The Heart to Heart International medical team is currently seeing patients at a shelter in Panama City. Scenes of destruction (like the ones in these photos) are everywhere in this community.  The devastation we’ve seen from Hurricane Michael is hard to believe. Heart to Heart International medical teams have been traveling through it all to reach people in need Help these teams provide urgently needed medical care to people who have lost so much.

[youtube url=”//www.youtube.com/embed/QbHqD8mNiQA” size=”large” align=”center”]
Image may contain: 1 person, indoorWhen Sunil came to Heart to Heart International’s medical clinic, he was complaining of ear issues. We examined him, wrote him a prescription, and listened as he told his story:

Sunil heeded the warnings before Hurricane Michael and evacuated his home on the beach in Panama City, Florida. Before leaving, he took many of his belongings to a storage unit inland in case his house was damaged. After the storm cleared, Sunil returned to his home to find it destroyed. Shortly after, he discovered that the storage unit was also completely demolished. While incredibly thankful for his life, Sunil was saddened by the loss and devastation.

Listening to the stories of those impacted by a disaster like Hurricane Michael is an important part of the care HHI provides. Listening shows people like Sunil that they are valued and cared for.

Yes, Sunil was having problems his ear, but he also just needed someone else to lend theirs. And that’s why we are here.

More updates to follow.

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October 13th, 2018 – The HHI medical response team gathered around battery-powered lanterns last night to talk through the plans for today. There is no electricity or air conditioning where the team is staying, so they rely on portable battery chargers and flashlights once the sun goes down. Cellular connectivity is also difficult, so communication demands as much forward thinking and proactive planning as possible.

Creativity, flexibility and resourcefulness are essential to any disaster response, and our teams embrace challenges in order to help people in need.

More updates to follow.

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October 12, 2018 The HHI advance disaster response team arrived in Tallahassee yesterday and met with other aid organizations to assess the needs of the various communities affected by Hurricane Michael and determine where HHI can best help.

The Mobile Medical Unit, three additional vehicles, and disaster response team left KC on October 11, 2018. The caravan left early in the morning and arrived in Jasper, AL, that night.  The team will arrive in Florida on October 12, 2018.

The advance team is exploring and visiting three different hospitals/clinics, including in Panama City Beach, as possible sites to position the MMU and deploy medical teams. The MMU and medical teams will begin plugging in over the weekend once a final determination on positioning has been made.

More updates will be provided.

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