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Doctor, nurse can't resist urge to pitch in

September 18, 2005|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

It was too much to watch hurricane suffering from afar, so Dr. Laura Asher said to registered nurse Roseann Russo, "Let's go."

They did, leaving Hagerstown early the next morning, Sept. 3.

They stayed mostly in the Baton Rouge area, said Russo, who works with Asher at Walnut Street Community Health Center in Hagerstown.

Their first stop was the Louisiana State University field house, where they worked at a triage center.

There, they saw some very sick people, Russo said, but they also spent part of the day waiting for more hurricane victims to arrive.

The next day, they went to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, which was teeming with victims airlifted in by military rescuers.

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Russo said she and Asher then went back to Baton Rouge, where they shifted to other duty in a ballroom at the Belmont Hotel.

They worked at a triage center for police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders, giving physical exams and vaccinations. Many of them had lost their homes in the hurricane, but continued to work, Russo said.

"It was a life-changing experience," Russo said. "As tragic as it was, I was amazed at the strength and, I'd say, the spirituality of the people we worked with."

The weeklong venture was made easier by their health center colleagues back home, who gathered supplies for them before they left and filled in while they were gone, Russo said.

"That's a long time in the day and life of a clinic ..." she said. "They worked awfully hard while we were gone."

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