Bainbridge - Matthew Buck
From the College of Medicine's 2018 annual report. Part of the 'After the hurricane: Responsive to community needs' series.
MATTHEW BUCK, MEMORIAL PEDIATRICS, BAINBRIDGE, GEORGIA
Buck (M.D., ’10) lives more than 100 miles from the Gulf Coast. Yet he, too, had to rely on his medical training – and his chainsaw skills – when Hurricane Michael blew into Georgia.
While Bainbridge hasn’t had it as bad as some of the coastal cities, it’s certainly the worst storm we’ve had here. We had Category 3 winds. Decatur County was 98 percent without power for over 48 hours after the storm. Memorial Hospital & Manor went without power for about 27 hours. While the backup power ran the lights and medical equipment, the lack of AC in a 50-year-old building made it miserable for patients and staff alike.
It’s the first time I’ve ever needed four-wheel drive and a chainsaw to get to the hospital to make rounds (Thursday morning after the storm). Just cutting my way out of my neighborhood took about an hour.
I was on call from 7 a.m. after the storm until the following Monday. I spent a lot of time dealing with people over phone, internet and social media, with medical questions that were a lot of guesswork because they couldn’t leave their homes. There’s not really much training for phone diagnosis, but in this case there was no other option.
I spent a lot more time being a neighbor and a member of the community than a physician during those days. I grew up in construction, and it turned out that skill with a chainsaw, a tow strap, a truck and a tarp were more valuable to my community than anything I learned in medical school.
It does raise some eyebrows when you show up to make nursery rounds in old jeans, boots, a sleeveless shirt and not having bathed in two days. But given the circumstances, the parents of my pediatric patients were more than gracious.
The most inspiring thing I learned was that my decision to practice medicine in a small town was a great one, especially in hard times. Although a doctor is a prominent member of the community on any other day, the week after Michael I was a neighbor just like everyone else – and proud to be that.