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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Heroes Serving Heroes in the Wake of Harvey

Time to Bring out the Heavy Equipment: Heroes Serving Heroes in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

Dr. Annapurni Teague, Associate Chief of Staff for Outpatient Care speaking to media in Beaumont, Texas.

By Jamie Dannen
Sunday, September 10, 2017

VA doctors went all out to get to their Veteran patients after Harvey.

On August 26, Dr. Annapurni Teague, Associate Chief of Staff for Outpatient Care left work for the evening at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. Hurricane Harvey had hit the city the night before, but the medical center itself was safe and dry, with 392 patients inside needing care.

The morning of August 27 brought new revelations however as Dr. Teague discovered that she could not drive through the flooding that had moved into the Houston area. At first, she attempted to walk the 3 ½ miles wading into water up to her knees.

Though he knew the VA hospital had no boats, Police Chief Stanley Staton remembered the heavy duty high-profile truck owned and operated by the transportation office. This gave him an idea.

Chief Staton and Environmental Management Service Chief Juan Burks drove the big truck out through standing water to pick up Dr. Teague and her colleague Dr. Christy Chai, Chief of the VA Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU.) Chief Staton drove the group back to the medical center just in time for Dr. Chai to rush inside and rescue a patient with a burst appendix. The timing could not have been more perfect.

Even after this, Chief Staton remains humble. “I’m not a hero, we just did what we do on a daily basis.” Chief Staton went on to say, “We picked up about ten staff, surgeons, cooks, doctors, the director, deputy director, associate director, chief of staff. We knew we had critical folks out there who couldn’t get in, and the National Guard, FEMA, everybody else was busy, so we needed to take care of our own. We went out there to get them.”

When asked about her unusual transportation, Dr. Teague said, “our VA Police did a very good job of picking me up. I’m glad they got me to the hospital because then I could help.”

Chief Staton echoed Dr. Teague’s comments with, “the whole medical center - everybody has stepped up and made it work under some extreme circumstances.”

Chief Staton’s heroic efforts, despite his humility, is not uncommon at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. People there are heroes taking care of heroes.

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