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Joplin tornado injuries put strain on health system

Tulsa World, May 27, 2011

When an EF-5 tornado barged into Joplin on Sunday, it dropped a bomb on the heart of the medical community. Bob Denton, director of emergency medicine at the Freeman Health System, said nothing could have prepared him for the next few hours. Patients began arriving with severed limbs, lacerations, compound fractures and head injuries. They filled the Emergency Department, waiting rooms and lobby and overflowed into the parking lots. "Everyone appeared to be critical, and it was overwhelming even for the most seasoned staff," Denton said. "I can't begin to describe the magnitude of the injuries. My colleagues in the Emergency Department worked tirelessly." They had to rely on emergency generators for power and, to make matters worse, had no way to communicate with other emergency departments. Five people died when the storm hit St. John's Regional Medical Center, only about a mile away. The nine-story building sustained massive damage and was evacuated.