Tag Archives: Mississippi

Blog: Rural Mississippi—Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

–Shailendra Prasad

August 2005. I planned on flying back to New Orleans after a conference in Arizona. My wife and son had accompanied me. We watched Katrina grow like a weird reality show—a petulant child gaining weight, becoming unruly. There was talk about this being bigger than Ivan from the year before, even bigger than Camille from 1969. “No,” my friends and patients in Mississippi told me, “nothing gets bigger than Camille.”

Our flights home were canceled. Then we learned our neighborhood was under mandatory evacuation. Evacuation was not foreign to us. We’d participated in four drills during our seven years in Mississippi. “Hurricane parties,” we called them. We’d lock the shutters on the house, secure the garage door, and remove the yard implements that could become missiles in the sixty plus mile-per-hour winds. Then along with our two satchels filled with a change of clothes, our son’s favorite toys, and copies of our important documents we would drive to a safe home, a friend whose home was not in the path of the storm. We’d spend the night playing cards, talking, and waiting out the squall. Usually we could go home the following morning.

We hoped this, too, would pass and called a friend who had a spare key to our house.

“Sounds like a bad one,” our friend said.

“Can you get our hurricane satchels? There are two of them, in the closet in the master bedroom.”

“Sure. I’ll lock up the house too. Anything else?”

“Yeah, put the birdfeeders in the garage. The birdbath too.”

“Of course. Be safe. I’ll be in touch.”

That night in Phoenix I watched the television. Reporters talked about the rain and wind in surrounding areas. Counties in both Mississippi and Louisiana were evacuated. I called every number in my cell phone. No answer at the hospital, the clinic. My practice partner did not respond at his home phone or cell. I could not reach our neighbors or local friends.

Our county, Pearl River, and our town, Picayune, were orange on the weather map. The Internet news pages said nothing more. I could not eat dinner. I continued to make calls. I phoned my dozen sickest patients whose numbers I kept just in case they needed me. No one answered. I worried about my three-year old patient waiting for a renal transplant at Tulane. He’d just gotten a match.

What would happen now? No answer. And there was complicated Mr. Shirley who I just referred to the neurologic unit in Birmingham, Alabama. Would he get there for his appointment? When was that appointment? No answer. Then there was my dialysis patient. Where would she go? No answer. Feeling restless and helpless I walked down to the business center and opened this blog:

Pearl River County Katrina Survivors

This is my attempt to help in the aftermath of Katrina. I work in the Picayune area and have very dear friends in the area. The only precondition to this blog is this—respect your fellow bloggers.

Please blog away to add on to the information on Picayune/Pearl River County,Mississippi.

posted by sprasad @ 8/30/2005 07:54:00PM

By midnight there were thirty posts. I am looking for . . . I am trying to reach. . . does anyone have any information on . . .

 (Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

Dr. Prasad felt an obligation to his patients during Hurricane Katrina. Medicine is rarely something you can walk away from when you leave the hospital or office. Often you carry patients with you – think about them, worry about them, pray for them. In a small town you often see  patients as you run errands at the hardware or grocery stores. This raises the issue about how one sets boundaries. How one cares for his/herself.

Talk with your preceptors and other staff in you clinical setting and see how they manage these challenges. 


Mississippi Mayhem

Hinds County,MS 2001

–C.D. Bradley-Jennett

“Remember you’re just an observer”

The ID doctor with the long gray hair and tortoise shell rimmed glasses reminds me

I don’t need reminding.

I know this is her clinic

I know she is trying to help

I am just an observer here

I am just a resident

Just a witness


Jesse James is black

Really beautiful

Dark like mahogany

Cheek bones angled just so…like a model really

But he is dying

“Got that AIDS,” he says, matter-of-factly

He is 26

The medicines might’ve worked if he’d taken them right

Not “every now and then” as his mother divulges


Now he sits on the examining table, bones jutting out everywhere

“What hurts you” the doctor says

“Everything” he replies

“And I just keep runnin’ to the bathroom…

Won’t stop no matter what I do…”


“Jesse we need to think about hospice”

“Remember we talked about that…”

“I’m having a hard time remembering anything lately. Mrs.…I mean Dr. Lee…

just tell my mama…she remembers everything”


And she does…the positive test…pregnancy test…27 years ago…how they had to “remove her womb and everything else ” because she wouldn’t stop bleeding… ensuring Jesse would be an only child. 

She remembered everything…the first step, the first word, the first day of school…the first clue…that something just wasn’t right…

he was 19 and losing weight and kept getting rashes on his face that just looked funny and then pneumonia and almost dying like that in Jackson Memorial Hospital…

They drove 40 miles to get there…he needed to see the specialist.  She needed her baby to live. 

The other positive test…

”Yes, it was for sure”   “No. they couldn’t tell how long he had it”  “Maybe she should talk to him about it”


She had warned him about so much:

“Be careful crossing Fitzgerald road ‘less you get hit by a tractor or somethin’ “

“Don’t swim in Hinds county creek the waters too dirty ‘bound to get all kinds of germs…”

“Pleeeeze, don’t get that fast girl pregnant now…you know I don’t need a baby around here…with me working all day”

“Baby I know it’s the 20th century, but please don’t sass them white folks…Mississippi ain’t changed that much”


Hadn’t warned him about this.  This disease that would kill him.

He was disappearing right before her eyes.  

Shrinking…folding in upon himself. 

Graying…his skin and even patchy areas of his once thick and lush hair. 

She remembered everything, but she kept quiet.

And even after she lost her only child she found it hard to say it aloud.

Everyone knew what Dr. Lee’s clinic was for, but it was still a secret in this small Mississippi town where separate and unequal still reigned supreme.

And everyone said “Mrs. James, I’m so sorry about your loss”, and the deaconesses from the church baked cakes and the supervisor from her job made her famous deviled eggs and the pastor’s wife fried chicken and people whispered laughter…as was appropriate for a repass, and everyone was so polite…

But, I wanted to shout because Jesse was younger than me and quite possibly brighter than me…

and now he was dead and that was not OK with me…

And I wanted to scream…and I wanted to sound the alarm…and I wanted to rally…and I wanted to educate about how it’s done up North

…but mostly I wanted to scream…

but I was just an observer.

(used with permission and published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

Dr. Bradley-Jennett reflects on her experience in the rural south as a medical student. In small towns all over the US, everyone knows everybody’s business. Sometimes that business includes health problems with a stigma like AIDS (Dr. Bradley-Jennett’s patient), sexually passed infections, or an unplanned pregnancy. Even today depression, substance abuse or the need for Viagra can be embarrassing. Recently, I had a patient ask me to write out her husband’s prescription for Viagra so she could hand carry it to the pharmacy in another town. She didn’t want the local pharmacy assistant, who she’d known forever, to know that my patient and her husband needed it. Sometimes what is known is not discussed, like in Bradley-Jennett’s poem. As a result neighbors can have a passivity about what is: Mr. Jones is an alcoholic and he beats his wife. It’s a given, no one asks if she needs help, or they are tired of her denying that it happens. As a result the alarm and rallying never happens to change the status quo. What have you noticed on your rural rotation about small town nosiness and privacy/confidentiality?