Monday, September 12, 2005

# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

BUNGLING THE WETWORK: Our friend Addie Stan (who for those of you not already familiar with her work, is not only a talented journalist, but also the most talented and beautiful ukelele player in the blogosphere) has on her website a letter from a correspondent presently volunteering her services as a clinical psychologist with New Orleans evacuees currently being housed in two locations in Dallas. The images there eerily echo those now-familiar ones from the Superdome which have now joined the repertory of images burned into our consciousness:

In the age of computers, we are doing worse than the pencil squibs and the rolls of paper to log in the displaced after World War II. Literacy and computer access seems to be considered as a given for people who have lost it all. Accessing FEMA is through a website. People are in shelters waiting for FEMA to come "in a few days." "Be patient." The Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana pumped my hand and replied to my desperate queries about how to help people find their parents and babies, "Be patient--give us a few days."

The mothers who have lost their children, and there are many, and the children who have lost their parents, have had it with the "be patient" response.... The stories that I know to be true are enough to make me boil. The compassionate foreign doctors who can't find anyone to validate their credentials [ed.: Andrew touches on this point as well], the expensive mobile hospital still sitting parked waiting for federal paperwork to move into Louisiana, the five C130s sitting on the Tarmac in San Diego since the night of Katrina, still waiting for orders to move. Where the hell are the beds? We have some old people sleeping on hot plastic pool floats with no sheets. They are still no showers for people who have walked for hours through fetid waters. Their skin is breaking out in rashes. Still no showers. Where the hell are the DeCon showers bought with Homeland Security money that can shower 30 people at a time?

The convention centers have no bathing facilities so the filth and skin reactions are getting worse. What of lice? There are no clothes for the really heavy and large. I was reduced to writing the women I knew who went to Weight Watchers to comb their attics for "before" outfits. When I arrived with the sack of my gatherings, I had to engage in a full-scale battle and puff myself up to all my red-headed doctor fury to get them distributed to the women still sitting there in their stinking clothes.
She has equally harsh criticism for the media:
I heard Soledad O'Brien say something about the still unrecognized need to address the psychological trauma. I sent a response to the CNN tip-line that there were hordes of every manner of mental health professional working 24/7. CNN's response? Dr. Phil and the stories of the survivors" on Larry King. They went to the guy who lost his clinical license for serious professional infractions [ed: q.v.] to tell the stories? I could see the "entertainer" down there gathering tales of the already exploited so that he and Larry could both pimp their ratings. The real unsung mental health heroes, the counselors, psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists dealing with un-medicated psychosis and severe traumatic responses were represented by Dr. "Keep-It-Real"? We don't need tabloid help from the media.
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