Winter storm, power outages increasing patient load for hospitals

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – It’s a pain too many have had to bear during what can only be described as a statewide disaster. Loved ones died simply because they didn’t have enough heat.

The family of 84-year-old Mary Gee, who succumbed to hypothermia inside her northeast Harris County apartment Tuesday, spoke to KPRC 2 on Thursday.

Gee, who was last seen by family the day before she died, was in a complex whose power had been shut off during this week’s storm.

“I just can’t imagine her freezing to death,” said stepdaughter Rachel Cook. “I’m trying to keep that out of my head because I just can’t imagine that.”

Hypothermia is just one of the cold-related issues sending more people to hospitals like Memorial Hermann this week.

“It really doesn’t take very low temperatures to put us in a difficult situation,” said Dr. David Callender, the president and CEO of the Memorial Hermann system. “Obviously when we’re at a subfreezing level with the external temperature the risk is much higher.”

Callender said their patient facilities also have seen an increase in patients with chronic diseases. They are people who need dialysis or oxygen but they don’t have power at home or at the facility they usually visit.

Carbon monoxide poisoning cases also have increased. This week, Memorial Hermann saw more than 100 patients alone.

“Unfortunately it sneaks up on us and there really aren’t obvious symptoms until we may be near unconsciousness,” he said.

Callender also reminded us that while COVID-19 has taken a backseat to this week’s storm while they are still seeing plenty of cases in addition to storm-related issues.

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