August 27th, 2010
06:53 PM ET
Charity's last hours: Brutal, beautiful
Five years after Hurricane Katrina battered Charity Hospital, pain and fear, hope and triumph, still echo through its walls.
The building is like a tomb, a thin film of dust covers relics from the last day the hospital was operational in 2005: patient logs, syringes, wheelchairs, gurneys, and Bibles with their pages curled and yellowing.
The hospital is pitch black on most floors, except where occasional slats of yellow light creep through unshuttered windows. It is eery, and quiet - nothing like when the hospital was open and bustling.
Bennett and two other doctors who braved Katrina at Charity, and saved dozens, perhaps hundreds, of lives, recently revisited the hospital with CNN. Their memories were bittersweet, especially when they recalled the long wait and the broken promises about rescue for themselves and their ailing patients.
"I think a lot of us were uncertain as to what was going to happen, what would be the next chapter and there was a lot of angst over that," said Dr. Ben Deboisblanc, an intensive care specialist who led a coordinated effort to airlift patients out of Charity after the hurricane hit. "But nonetheless, to watch all these young men and women do the work that they did under duress was a beautiful thing. I can't overstate how exciting it was to be able to take care of people in their greatest hour of need, which is I think the greatest privilege in life."
When it was still open, Charity Hospital had 2,680 beds and served many of the city's poor and uninsured patients.
"Charity Hospital was an icon. It is still an iconic symbol in many people's minds," said Dr. Ruth Berggren, formerly an infectious disease physician at Charity. "I mean, people talk about being born in Charity Hospital and their mama's mama's mama being born in Charity Hospital."
The likelihood of anyone else being born at Charity is slim, since the hospital's chances of re-opening, at the moment - look slim. There are plans to open what is being described as a state-of-the-art $1.2 billion facility a short distance away from the old Charity building. Officials say that the facility will be a bioscience hub and a destination for both medical students and doctors.
According to a website dedicated to it, the new facility will have 424 patient beds, five trauma rooms, 76 emergency department stations, 23 operating rooms and "...will feature best practices of evidence-based healthcare design."
Still, at least some former Charity doctors fear that the new center will not be the haven for the poor that Charity once was, and will take too many years (the new medical center is expected to open in 2014) to provide medical care that is desperately needed post-Katrina.
Bennett, and a coalition of community groups, are among those pressing to re-open Charity.
"My heart still hurts for Charity Hospital," said Bennett. "Watching how long it's taken us to recover and how it's just devastated the lives of a city with so much heart, that's what hurts. Health care here has been compromised for the indigent people who need it and I think this building could have been at the heart of that solution."
"It's here because of a desire to make health care available to people who don't have access," said Berggren, who is now director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "To just shut Charity down without trying to reopen it, that's very sad. That's tragic."
Meanwhile the looming, dusty Charity building still stands – devoid of patients, devoid of life – while the past still echoes through it.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you book marked to look at new things you postÖ
I really like it when individuals come together and share opinions. Great site, continue the good work!
Aw, this was a really nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to produce a very good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.
Hey There. I discovered your weblog the usage of msn.
That is a really neatly written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to learn more of your
helpful information. Thank you for the post.
I will certainly return.
Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a really good articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a lot and never seem to get anything done.
A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I do think that you need to write more about this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but usually people don't speak about such topics. To the next! All the best!!
Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up plus the rest of the site is also really good.
I was pretty pleased to uncover this site. I want to to thank you for your time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every part of it and i also have you saved as a favorite to look at new things in your website.
Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be interesting to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their websites.
Hi, I do believe this is a great website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I'm going to revisit once again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.
I like reading an article that can make people think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!
Good day! I could have sworn Iíve been to this site before but after going through many of the posts I realized itís new to me. Anyways, Iím certainly delighted I came across it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!
I must thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this website. I'm hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own blog now 😉
Itís hard to find knowledgeable people about this subject, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks
I really like reading a post that will make men and women think. Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!
Saved as a favorite, I like your blog!
Very good post! We will be linking to this great content on our site. Keep up the good writing.
You should take part in a contest for one of the finest websites on the internet. I most certainly will highly recommend this site!
This website definitely has all of the information and facts I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.
Great web site you've got here.. Itís hard to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!
An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me dinner due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this subject here on your site.
you're truly a just right webmaster. The web site loading speed is incredible.
It seems that you are doing any distinctive trick.
Furthermore, The contents are masterpiece. you have done
a excellent task in this matter!
Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe this site needs far more attention. Iíll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the advice!
This is a good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate infoÖ Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!
Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article! It is the little changes that make the most important changes. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts
and I will be waiting for your further post thanks once again.
Can I simply say what a relief to uncover somebody that genuinely understands what they are discussing over the internet. You actually know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people must read this and understand this side of your story. I can't believe you are not more popular because you definitely have the gift.
Right here is the perfect blog for anyone who would like to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want toÖHaHa). You certainly put a new spin on a subject which has been written about for ages. Wonderful stuff, just great!
Itís hard to come by well-informed people for this subject, but you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks