Hurricane Katrina Provides a Silver Lining for Louisiana Prostate Cancer Patient

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Uprooted by Hurricane Katrina, Allen Bernard Sr. was enduring a men's health crisis as the same time as the hurricane struck.

We waited there for 12 hours

Like many other metro New Orleans residents, prostate cancer patient Allen Bernard, Sr. of Chalmette, Louisiana, has quite a story to tell about Hurricane Katrina. But unlike most, his has an interesting twist and a men's health crisis with a happy ending.

An electrician at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans, Allen is responsible for maintaining the hospital’s generators in the event of a power outage. Because of this, he is considered essential personnel in times of crisis like impending hurricanes. Unfortunately, while Hurricane Katrina was spinning away out in the Gulf, he had his own personal men's health crisis also impending.

“I had a prostate biopsy on August 12,” he explains. “Then the week before Hurricane Katrina hit, I got the results and found out it was prostate cancer. The Friday before Hurricane Katrina, I called my urologist’s office to schedule an appointment. I was supposed to see him on Monday, August 29.”

After discussing his diagnosis with his wife, Linda, they decided to keep the news quiet until they had more information about men's health on prostate cancer. The rest of the family headed out to stay with their daughter, Bridgette, in West Green, Alabama, and Linda stayed with Allen to ride out the storm.

Employees were allowed to leave on Thursday afternoon after the flooding began. The hospital arranged for its employees—including Allen and Linda—to go by boat to dry ground where a van would be waiting to transport them. From there, they were told, they would go by bus to Houston or Dallas. Unfortunately, they wound up on the now infamous interstate overpass. “We waited there for 12 hours,” Linda says.

Eventually, Allen and Linda made their way to Jackson, Mississippi-that’s where the interesting twist and the happy ending begins. There, a distant relative of Linda’s, Cherrie Murphy and her husband, Ragan, welcomed the Bernard’s into their home for a stopover on the way to Alabama. Ragan works in Surgery at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson maintaining computer equipment, including the da Vinci surgical robot.

The morning after they arrived, the Murphys learned of Allen’s prostate cancer diagnosis. Ragan got in touch right away with urologist Dr. Patrick Daily, a men's health expert who performs a minimally invasive radical prostatectomy using the the da Vinci. “At that point,” Allen notes, “I still hadn’t spoken to a doctor about my prostate cancer. I was going to see my doctor on Monday, but the hurricane hit. It was a tremendous relief to finally talk to a doctor.”

Dr. Daily explained to the couple that the prostate cancer didn’t put Allen in immediate jeopardy and they had time to get their lives on a more even keel. Reassured, Allen and Linda joined their family in Alabama and broke the news of his cancer. In the meantime, Allen had no hometown hospital where he could get care. Dr. Daily had offered to help them and said it would be helpful if he could get a copy of Allen’s biopsy report. Allen and Linda located a urologist at a hospital in Birmingham affiliated with Memorial Medical Center where Allen worked and tracked down Allen’s biopsy report.

“We met with Dr. Daily the Thursday of the following week back in Jackson,” Allen says, “and we scheduled surgery within a week. Thank goodness, the cancer hadn’t spread.” Dr. Daily was able to perform the radical prostatectomy as a minimally invasive procedure using the da Vinci. Allen was up and around the following day, with only five tiny bandages on his abdomen to show for it. Plus, he won’t need any further treatment for the prostate cancer.

The da Vinci surgical robot is a significant advance in men's health. It allows surgeons to perform a da Vinci Prostatectomy with a tiny robotic tool, minimizing the size of the incisions and the scope of the operation. Among the benefits of da Vinci surgery are less scarring, reduced infection risk, less blood loss and therefore reduced need for transfusions, and a faster recovery with a quicker return to normal daily activities. Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson is the only hospital in Mississippi with this new technology, making it a prime location for treatment of men's health issues.

“We’d never heard of the da Vinci robot or this kind of prostate cancer surgery in New Orleans,” said Allen. “So if it hadn’t been for Hurricane Katrina, I don’t know what we would have done. This has definitely been the silver lining.”

Contact:

Baptist Health Systems

Robby Channell

1225 North State Street

Jackson, MS 39202

601-968-5135

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Robby Channell
Mississippi Baptist Health Systems
601-968-5135
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