The Power of Human Connections

Op-Ed: The pandemic, Hurricane Ian and me — a doctor whose friends say I have PTSD, too, and a woman whose husband died in the storm

My name is Dr. Eric Davis. I’m the chief medical officer at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, the largest healthcare system in South Florida. I grew up in New Jersey and Florida. I was married to a doctor before I met my present wife, who was born and raised in Jacksonville. When the storm hit, her parents and grandparents were stranded.

I arrived to Florida with just the clothes on my back. After finding temporary housing, I began working in pediatrics at a hospital that was hit hard by flooding. I was able to see a lot of kids who had no parents. I saw first-hand the power of human connections and the power of forgiveness.

I saw many kids who survived. I saw many kids who didn’t survive. I saw stories of people who were lost, and I saw stories of redemption.

The biggest memory I have of the storm is the power of people to come together, to put their differences aside, to get together and care for one another.

I’ve been to over a thousand meetings of the Florida legislature. I’ve spent weeks working with the state to implement the most comprehensive public health response possible to this virus, especially the mental health needs we saw in the early stages of the outbreak. I know, because I’ve been there.

When the state had no way to send people like me home, I did my best. I worked with my colleagues to get a few staff members’ sick time. I called the governor’s office, trying to get a hold of anyone who might hear about us.

I came up with a plan that gave us an extra day to evacuate St. Joseph’s Medical Center. I did my best to put as much of the staff as possible on a bus and sent them out of the hospital. But when I got home, my wife, who is a physician, told me what was happening at the hospital, that my staff was not safe.

I had to rush to the hospital.

We were about five minutes away from the hospital when I heard screaming. It was almost 10 p.m. I made calls until the sun was down in order to get some of my staff to the hospital. There were about three dozen of us, all

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