[Editor's Note:  One day after writing his blog, Flood of Hope, Andrew Schorr received a warm and welcome response from one of oncology's most renowned experts, Dr. William Wierda.  The following is a copy of Dr. Wierda's email.]

Dear Andrew,

I just read your blog and concern about us in Houston, and I wanted to reach out to you and let you know that we are doing well and give you a report on what has been happening.

It has been a difficult past several days, and we have had many struggles and challenges, but we are very rapidly recovering. MD Anderson did not sustain significant damage, so our physical Institution is relatively intact. There was brief flooding in certain areas of MDACC, that was quickly contained. However, we have had many struggles with our staff and providers, whose houses were flooded and damaged. This, and difficulties with transportation and child care, have made it hard for people to get into the Texas Medical Center and MDACC. Despite this, there are many, many stories of our providers and staff staying in the hospital to ride out the storm, and returning to work to help our patients, despite personal loss in some cases. 

I am profoundly humbled by what our providers and staff have done to keep things running and enable us to continue to take care of patients. I have been managing the clinical operations for the Departments of Leukemia, Lymphoma and Stem Cell Transplant, and from the time the storm began, we were able to maintain an exceptional level of care for our hospitalized patients. There was about 24hrs on Sunday, where the entire Texas Medical Center was flooded, and essentially there was a “moat” of waist-to-chest high water surrounding the Texas Medical Center that was impassable. There were no boats and no vehicles, but there were some very brave providers who waded through this to get into the hospital to take care of patients. I and other physicians were managing things over the phone and internet with nurses and providers in the hospital on Sunday, because thankfully, many did not lose home electricity or cell phone coverage. I live less than a mile from MDACC and could not safely drive in on Sunday.

Early Monday morning I was able to get into the hospital to make sure that all the hematologic malignancy patients were being well taken care of. I spent the night in the hospital, like the days when I was a resident, and have spent nearly all the time at MDACC since Monday. We quickly developed a plan to call outpatients, mostly with acute leukemia and patients who had undergone transplant, who we knew had low blood counts and likely needed blood or platelet transfusions, to bring them in on Tuesday for labs and transfusions. Patients out of the hospital have also suffered, and many had difficulties getting to the hospital, but on Tuesday we were able to get about 35 patients into the clinic, and nearly all of them received transfusions. We were able to more than double this number on Wednesday, as more hospital and clinic staff were able to come in to work and help. This experience has highlighted for me the critical importance of EVERYONE who works in the hospital, including housekeeping, phlebotomists, laboratory and radiology technicians, pharmacists, nurses, clerical staff, physician assistants, and doctors. We cannot take good care of patients without EVERYONE.

Today is Thursday and we were able to open a Hematologic Malignancy outpatient clinic to see critical patients who needed transfusions, IV fluids and antibiotics. We saw all the patients we could reach and who could come in. Our physician assistants, nurses and clerical staff have been extremely helpful in reaching out to patients by phone and working to get those in, who we knew needed to be seen. Our Emergency room has remained open, but again, patients have had difficulties with getting to MDACC.

Tomorrow (Friday) we will hold individual Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Stem Cell Transplant Clinics (our regular clinics), to see patients who we were able to contact and who can come in to be seen. Over this three-day holiday weekend, MD Anderson will be calling patients to come in and be seen, as we are able to expand clinics with our staff and providers who are able to return to work. 

I am relieved and happy to say that we expect MDACC being back to 100% operations by Tuesday across all clinical areas. Next week will be very busy in all areas and there will likely be delays, since there are literally thousands of patients who could not be seen this week and need to be seen, in addition to those previously planned to come in next week. We will work hard to manage this and do our best. 

It has been a remarkable past several days, and I am so very humbled to see all that people are doing for others to help one another. There have been countless accounts and stories of people rising to the occasion and this continues. There is still much recovery needed, particularly for our staff, providers and patients whose homes have been damaged, but we are strong and determined to help one another.

I’m sure you have seen the news reports of many, many affected people in Texas, many of whom have had significant losses and face the challenge of recovery. This was my 3rd hurricane since living in Houston, with the worst flooding by far.

I hope you are doing well. I have seen some of your streaming Facebook Live sessions.

Thank you for sharing your personal story with patients and providing invaluable information and support for your community.

Best Wishes,

Bill [Dr. William Wierda]

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