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Wichita volunteer physician: Destruction in Moore is ‘unimaginable’

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at 9:10 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, at 9:14 a.m.

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Heart to Heart

Heart to Heart International was founded 20 years ago by Olathe family physician Gary Morsch at the end of the Cold War to supply collapsing countries in the Soviet Union with medical supplies.

For more information on the organization, visit www.hearttoheart.org.

— For Wichita doctor Jenifer Cook, it’s not the first time in the field.

Cook, a volunteer physician with Olathe-based Heart to Heart International, which provides medical aid across the world, is working in Moore, Okla., this week after a devastating tornado hit the city on Monday afternoon. She also volunteered after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and the Greensburg tornado.

“I just got on the highway and headed down. … I just happened to have 19 days off of work,” said Cook, who is also the medical director at Pregnancy Crisis Center in Wichita.

“God had a plan. He knew I would be needed somewhere else.”

In post-disaster environments, Cook said, medical workers get a routine and learn what to expect – what types of supplies they’ll need and what kinds of injuries they will see.

“This is my favorite type of medicine – to help after disaster,” Cook said. “You don’t want disaster to happen, but I love it because you really help people in need and it’s not just medical. People really need someone to listen to them and give a hug to.”

A visibly emotional Cook said that on Tuesday she helped a family whose children had been stuck in one of the damaged elementary schools.

“That’s the first time I cried. I stopped to reflect,” she said. “You look at it and you cannot even imagine. No man, no machine could cause this kind of destruction. Nothing outside of a tornado could cause this. It’s unimaginable.”

“To hear people come by and say, ‘I survived in a bathtub or in a closet,’ you just think, ‘I’m so fortunate.’ ”

Cook thinks she will stay in Moore for at least one more week and then will try to come back again. She thinks this is just the beginning for volunteer medical clinics in the area.

“When the volunteers come, that’s when our business will exponentially take off. … It’s going to be a large number of people in the debris and we anticipate a lot of injuries,” she said.

Heart to Heart is also working to coordinate distribution of replacement medication for tornado victims.

Within the next week, they expect to distribute medication for things like high blood pressure, diabetes, infections and upper respiratory illnesses, for victims who lost their medication, have expired prescriptions or whose doctors’ offices no longer exist because of the storm.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com.

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