Third Peoples Medical Relief Reportback Grace Keller

New York City, Nov. 4, 2012 — Please note that these report-backs do not represent a single, coordinated effort, but are a catalog of what street medics are willing to share with me about the work that they are doing in NYC post-Sandy, wherever they may be plugged in.

Gowanus and Rockaways

Mike Duncan spent the morning with colleagues from Vocal-NY providing some supplies and a prescription med run for residents of the Gowanus Houses south of Downtown Brooklyn, where 5 buildings (2 with 14 stories) are still without electricity.

In the evening he drove out to YANA in the Rockaways and touched base with Nastaran. According to her, the YANA occupy folks set up a space for Doctors Without Borders, who then turned away dozens of medically trained volunteers. They have done a bunch of canvassing in the neighborhood with assessment forms filled out with varying quality. They could use help from medically savvy folks with triage and coordinating doctors and nurses. He got there after dark and the neighborhood was mostly deserted except for police and National Guard and, on the plus side, lots of garbage trucks. The parking lot for Riis Beach has been turned in to a dump with giant mounds of debris.

Rockaway Park Seaside / Hammel Houses

Report from 2 members of Team Steam (Miriam, Jessie, 2 WFRs)

Responders met up at St Camillus RC Church (Beach 100 & Rockaway Blvd) to set up a medic rendezvous inside the distribution center. Doctor and nurse volunteers should be at the site from 9:00am-4:30pm most days, with the ability to write prescriptions and talk to pharmacy.

Then teams went out to do home checks at Hammel Houses (a NYCHA development of 6 and 7-story high buildings with 712 apartments housing 1,994 residents. It is bordered by Beach 81st and Beach 86th Streets, Hammels and Rockaway Beach Boulevards). Team Steam canvassed 4 or 5 buildings [which buildings unspecified] of the 14 buildings in the Hammel Houses development. Some buildings there have power, some don't. Residents [how many unspecified] needed prescription refills. Team Steam responded to prescription refill needs mostly by taking notes on forms they use when people don't have empty Rx bottles. They took their notes to the medic rendezvous at St Camillus and handed the information off to a clinical volunteer [Unknown how the clinicians managed the scrips and whether patients got medications]. Team Steam was not aware that the 271 Beach 20th St pharmacy in Far Rockaway is open (it is!). They reported that open pharmacies in the Rockaways are hard to find, and people have to "go far" to fill the scrips. Miriam said she would like a good clear way of getting folks their meds without a lot of hassle.

While in Hammel Houses, Team Steam found a family of four nearly unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. The family had headaches, nausea, dizziness, disorientation, sleepiness, and were laying down to sleep when the team knocked. The stove had been on since the previous night for warmth. The team got the family out of the house where their symptom-picture improved, and verified that none of the family members had passed out. The team started to try to get the family to a shelter for the night but the family decided to stay in a hotel for the night instead. This is the second home they have been in where residents were suffering from CO poisoning (in the first one residents were heating their apartment with coal). All medics should know CO poisoning signs, and should educate non-medic canvassers and residents to be alert for CO poisoning because people are using unsafe means to heat their freezing houses. If people in houses/apts complain of headaches, ask how they are heating their home.

Work in the Rockaways gets started very late each day because travel time is so long. The sun sets before 5 PM. Contact person for medic rendezvous at St Camillus is Naraste. She is coordinating canvassing assignments for now. Miriam has her #. Anyone working in the Rockaways should check in there.

Coney Island

Team Shackleford (Redd and Rixey) drove to Coney Island, where they Andre from the NYC Housing Authority disptched them to residents that needed help. They started out the day with a doctor and a nurse on their team, "but they took one step into the pitch-black project with piss in the stairwell, and they got scared and left."

They filled a lot of prescriptions and "helped a lot of old folks get their food and water up mad flights of stairs." They went to a pharmacy in Sunset Park and one in Cederhurst and filled the prescriptions themselves. They had to pay out of pocket because the info provided on script filling was flawed, and the info they collected wasn't what they needed. The local pharmacies with the patients' info were all destroyed. Residents with insurance told them that their info was at the local Coney Island pharmacy and it had been too long since they needed it to know the difference between the info for doctors visits and getting pills. Redd thinks it worked better Rixey and he collected the info and directly filled the scripts because it took a certain amount of trustbuilding to get the residents to allow them to help.

Team Shackleford met some Russian speakers canvassing one of the buildings that had a lot of Russian immigrants, but forgot to give them the list of folks to check on. Team Shackleford felt they had the skills and resources to help most residents they encountered, except for a diabetic in Sheepshead Bay. All the insulin in the affected areas had gone bad. Without insurance what remained in unaffected areas was far too expensive for Team Shackleford to afford out-of-pocket. They ended up working with a guy who was trying to start an emergency pharmacy and clinic out of shipping containers on 27th and Mermaid to get insulin mailed from express scripts to his apartment, but he has since left his apartment to go somewhere else and doesn't believe it will come. They couldn't figure out if there is mail service in Sheepshead Bay. If anyone can figure out a steady source for insulin that would be the greatest thing in the world.

Team Shackleford got through two buildings that still didn't have power [including a Surfside Gardens building?]. Becca and Shon showed up just as they were leaving and the team gave the rest of the list of NYCHA residents in need to them as well as the contact for the shipping container guy. Team Shackleford plans to continue care of the folks they already helped because of the trust they've cultivated.

Coney Island

Roger reported on the activities of medics and nurses who did house checks including Jeff & himself, Shon and Becca, Anna Lederman, Julia, and Viken. They assembled at St Jacobi, and got a ride from there to 2828 Neptune Avenue (Coney Island Gospel Assembly building) to help set up a neighborhood relief center. There is a mobile kitchen in the parking lot, and donated supplies. Mo wanted them to see patients there, so they took over a corner, but it seemed like the greater need was to keep doing house checks.

Occupy Sandy volunteers had previously canvassed houses in Coney Island and identified distressed residents and residents with outstanding medical needs. They split into three groups: Jeff/Roger, Shon/Becca, Anna/Julia/Viken (the third group had two Russian speakers and two nurses) [Roger did not report what buildings they visited, but they visited at least one building in Surfside Gardens, five public-housing towers housing 1,300 seniors].

One patient was an elderly woman who had not had dialysis in over a week (she used to go three times a week). She did not want to go to the hospital because she was afraid she would not be able to get back up the steps to her apartment. Her medic told her, "You probably won't be coming home until the electricity is back on." She was unaware that another storm was coming. She had food and water because her home health aide still came to work. When she agreed to go to the hospital, the 911 dispatcher was "an asshole," but response was fast and the EMS workers were great.

Many home health aides are still coming to see their elderly clients, taking care of food and water basic needs. NYPD are still door-knocking to bring food to residents. Roger and Fidget joined up with a group of non-medical canvassers in the afternoon, and ran into Bellevue doctors in the stairwell. They gave their prescription refill sheets to one of the Bellevue doctors before going home.

Information on the sheets: Name, DOB, benefit #, name of doctor, as much information as possible off the medication bottle (esp for insulin), their home hospital, and their home pharmacy name and address. Many residents had been patients at Coney Island Hospital, and a rumor was going around that it would not be re-opened for 6 months [can someone investigate this, so we can reassure patients?]. At the end of shift, these medics returned to St. Jacobi.

There is still large amounts of sand blocking the beachfront streets, and concerns about the coming storm. No electricity means no heat. Basements are still flooded. Roger feels the street medics did a good job of mobilizing and supporting volunteers with more advanced medical training who were not as good at operating in crisis. He says that the survival stories he heard today were as horrifying as the stories he heard from Katrina survivors, and he feels like this effort could benefit from a Common Ground Health Clinic-scale mobilization.

This team was featured in a NY Magazine article:

Staten Island / Midland Beach Area

Team Black Dog was in the Midland Beach area going door to door. Sarge reports that a good 90% are fine with the occasional bumps and cuts and diabetic concerns. Team Black Dog will be in Tottenville on 6 Nov, and plans to visit Staten Island shelters next. A lot of people need a lot of mental health support. As far as prescriptions, the team has been informing patients that almost all insurance companies have waived the one months no refill thing, and is concerned about the importance of elders stocking up on meds and preparing for the coming storm.

Home Front

Laurie Wen:

  • Forwarded needs from medics/canvassers/hub coordinators to Mo, Nastaran, Zoe (mostly compiled by folks yesterday)
  • Coordinated with Americares, who wants to donate medications—Nastaran (hopefully) and Laurie meeting with them 6 Nov
  • Researched medications we need donated
  • Researched pharmacies' policies on refills
  • Outreached to doctors for shifts for tomorrow and rest of the week (we may have a van full of Montefiore residents coming on Thursday and Friday)
  • Researched methadone resources. Some emergency rooms and methadone clinics are out of it, including the Methadone clinic at St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway
  • None of Laurie's doctors or nurses were out today.


  • Made a good doc of docs.
  • Facilitated the Americares donation.
  • Got a googlevoice number and an email
  • Sent doctors out to check on expressed needs from earlier
  • Found her replacements (non-street medics Julia and Stephanie, who will be staffing the email and google voice number from 6 Nov til ?)

Note from Grace

  • I'm happy to send you report-backs whenever you want and not send them when you don't. Anytime you don't want to get them, just let me know.
  • These report-backs are not a comprehensive picture of anybody or any organization's organizing on the ground. Even though I work with Peoples' Medical Response Dispatch in some capacities, the reports don't represent them or even necessarily the people I interviewed to write the reports — although most interviewees do get copies of the reports and some may read and reply to them.
  • Names, addresses, names of locations, and numerical data are sometimes wrong in these reports. If a team is named, I usually just made up the name to avoid sharing names and other personal information about volunteers. Feel free to ask me to change inaccurate information or remove your name from the archived version of the report.
  • Not everyone interviewed is associated with Peoples' Medical Dispatch, though most are, so these reports are more than a bit myopic in their focus on one tiny point of light in a constellation.
  • The reports are nothing more than my personal attempts to separate signal from noise, shared with others to save them time doing the same thing.
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