After Harvey, Houston Cancer Hospital Begins Recovery : Shots - Health News During Harvey, doctors, nurses, technicians and facilities staff tended to inpatients at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Now the hospital is working to get outpatients back for care as well.
NPR logo

An 'Army Of People' Helps Houston Cancer Patients Get Treatment

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/547539504/547774628" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
An 'Army Of People' Helps Houston Cancer Patients Get Treatment

An 'Army Of People' Helps Houston Cancer Patients Get Treatment

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/547539504/547774628" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's hear now how one hospital in Houston is coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey - and not just any hospital, Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center. It's one of the world's foremost oncology facilities. Dr. Karen Lu is senior vice president and chief medical officer there. I spoke with her by Skype.

I am looking at pictures of your hallways flooded with water, pictures of the roads leading up to the hospital flooded. Can you describe for us what it is like there?

KAREN LU: Sure. I've been here for 18 years and been through several hurricanes. But our main road was literally a river of about 4 feet of water.

KELLY: This is the road that, say, an ambulance would be coming up?

LU: That's right. Over the last decade, the Texas Medical Center has re-engineered the area so that there are floodgates that go up, and that really protected the buildings.

KELLY: Did you have internal flooding inside the facility?

LU: We had very minimal damage. There were no patient care areas that were impacted by the storm.

KELLY: You all have what you call a ride-out team, which refers to staff who've agreed to stay put and just ride out the storm and take care of the patients who are there. Tell me how that's worked. How has it gone caring for the hundreds of people who you have on-site at MD Anderson?

LU: So we had 528 patients who were in the hospital on Sunday morning, as well as probably another couple hundred of family members. And the amazing part is that they were all safe and well cared for on a skeleton crew of individuals who are part of our ride-out team.

KELLY: Now, what about - we mentioned there are thousands of patients who live elsewhere, were not at the hospital when Harvey hit with great force - how has that worked out with patients? You mentioned the road has been totally flooded. Have people been able to get to you for their treatments?

LU: So we moved to a limited outpatient services, so our status has changed from being closed. And what that means is that we have really rallied our staff to come in today and to be able to contact these patients and reassure them and reschedule their appointments.

KELLY: You're, of course, dealing with patients who are already - if they're coming to you for cancer treatment - grappling with a terrifying health issue. And now they're having to deal with it in the middle of a huge citywide - regional disaster as well. What are you actually hearing from patients?

LU: So the amazing thing is that what I'm hearing from them are messages of - are you safe? It's amazing.

KELLY: They're asking you that? Wow.

LU: They're asking us how we're doing. So you know, it's such a partnership between patients and clinicians.

KELLY: That's Dr. Karen Lu, senior vice president and chief medical officer at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Dr. Lu, best of luck in the days to come.

LU: Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.