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Policies & Procedures

The Hurricane with No Name

By August 18, 2016 No Comments

Katrina. Rita. Gustav. Ike.

This hurricane has no name.

Unless you happen to be a resident or have connections to the Gulf Coast region, you may only vaguely recall the last three named storms on this list. It is a storm with no name, however, that has already taken its place next to Katrina as one of the most devastating natural disasters in Louisiana history.

With over 20 parishes added to the federal disaster declaration, 75% of the homes in Livingston Parish lost (and an astonishing 90% in Denham Springs), the impact of the Great Flood of 2016 will be felt for decades to come, supplanting the flood of 1983 as the worst flood in modern Louisiana history. The devastation runs from the Mississippi border along the I-12/I-10 corridor all the way through Baton Rouge and on past Lafayette.

Summers in Louisiana are sub-tropical—hot & humid to an extreme degree—and daily thunderstorms are the norm. As such, when the rain began to fall last Thursday, the ground was already saturated. When the remnants of a tropical system stalled over the state, the ground was unable to absorb the massive quantity of water dumped upon it over a 48-hour period. Some areas saw three months’ worth of rain within a 24-hour period. Let me stress that while much of New Orleans sits below sea level, for the most part the places that flooded this past week do not. In fact, many of those places never flooded before, not even in the massive flood back in 1983.

As new parents of a three-month-old daughter, my wife and I experienced the Great Flood of 2016 in a wholly different way than we did those named hurricanes that preceded it. Hurricane Katrina may have caught New Orleans off-guard with its late turn to the north, but we had 48 hours to evacuate (those preparations were largely futile after the levees failed, but that is another article altogether). When the rains began with a thunderstorm on Thursday night, August 11th, no one was ready for what was to come, and as a husband and new father I wanted to protect my family at all costs.

When Katrina hit, I was in my early 20s and a graduate student at Louisiana State University (LSU). It was just before classes started and my roommates went to grab lunch at fast food place. In a time before social media saturation, we instead learned something was wrong when we saw the line at the gas station was around the block. Being grad students with few possessions or responsibilities to others, we immediately went back home, dropped off two of the cars near the top of a parking garage, piled in one of my roommate’s cars and headed for Atlanta. Our evacuation preparation took maybe an hour or two.

Eleven years later as a husband and father my priorities are completely different. On Friday we first heard that the rain might cause flooding, I started running weather apps on three devices almost constantly. Unlike Katrina, this time around there was no warning about how devastating the flooding could be, and the flooding itself has prevented us from evacuating. We are in our house forced to ride this out with our new daughter. Being afraid for yourself is one thing, being afraid for your wife and child is a whole other feeling. Since Saturday there hasn’t been much we could do to protect our daughter and ourselves. The only thing we can do is watch our weather apps and pray like mad that we’re spared.

My wife and I, and our infant daughter have been lucky—we remain safe and dry in our townhouse in Baton Rouge’s Mid City neighborhood. Many of our family members, friends, and coworkers lost everything, and they lost it quickly. My wife’s parents were able to get some sandbags around their house, but by Saturday it was completely under water. This was the house my father-in-law grew up in, that my in-laws were married in and that my wife grew up in. And now it is completely under water. My in-laws made it out safe, but the loss of the house has been devastating to the family.

As our social media newsfeeds filled with images of the flooding, my wife and I took stock of what we—as new parents—had done to prepare and what we would do differently in the future. Here are a few bits of advice we can give to parents to help them prepare for an emergency evacuation situation. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and you should always consult your local authorities on the best preparedness plans:

What We Did:

  • When it was obvious that conditions were worsening, my wife and I took stock of our supplies: food, formula, diapers, wipes—anything that the family might need if the city were shut down for an extended period of time. We had flashlights, batteries, rain gear, and our phones were fully charged. My wife ran across the street to the store to pick up extra items, “Just in case!”
  • We currently live in a rental property and have renter’s insurance. Be sure that your renter’s insurance covers flooding. Often, it does not. Make sure you ask your insurance agent about getting extra coverage.
  • If you own your property, get flood insurance. I don’t care if my family ends up living on a peak in the Himalayas, I will always get flood insurance for our home.

What We Wish We Had Done:

  • We needed a better escape plan and a back-up escape plan.
  • Accounts from our friends and relatives stressed how quickly the floodwaters rose around them and how little time they had to react. Many of them barely escaped with some important documents and the clothes on their back, leaving behind pets, valuables, and items that may have proved crucial once they made it to shelter.
  • You may be familiar with a “Bug-Out Bag” or “Go Bag”. Having important items and documents located together so that they can be easily located and grabbed in an escape is crucial. My wife and I (okay, my wife) keep a fully-stocked diaper bag at the ready, but in the future we will add copies of important documents as well as extra baby supplies to the Bug-Out Bag and diaper bag.

Important Items to Remember:

  • Have an escape plan with multiple routes (roads may become impassable) and multiple destinations.
  • Make sure you have enough gas in your tank to get out of the disaster area. There may not be a gas station that is a) open and b) has gas.
  • Figure out what you will do with your pets.
  • Never drive through flooded streets—you do not know how deep the flooding is or how fast the current happens to be: “Turn around, don’t drown!”
  • Even after the rain stops, water can still rise, especially as rivers crest. Make sure you know the areas around you that are subject to backflow.
  • Unfortunately there are those out there who may try to take advantage of the chaos that follows a natural disaster. Beware of price-gouging and contractor scams when the rebuilding begins.
  • Pay attention to local authorities—especially if a curfew is in place.
  • Mosquito populations will skyrocket 12-14 days after the rain stops. Be sure you deal with any standing water on your property, wear long sleeves, and if you use bug spray, make sure it has DEET.

I’d like to end by praising social media. One of the main ways this recent disaster differs from Hurricane Katrina is that much of the region had some sort of internet access throughout the disaster. As of Wednesday, August 17th, the body count from the flood sits at 10. It is without hesitation that I say that this relatively low number is due in large part to the fact that people were able to reach out through social media, directing those with flat-bottomed boats to those who needed rescue. As local emergency responders were pressed to the limit, the “Cajun Navy” sprang into action, saving so many who had suddenly become trapped in their homes.

Our community came together to save itself through our newsfeeds, and we continue to do so, directing recovery efforts in real-time, post by post.

We are a resilient people here in Louisiana, and we will rebuild—just as we did after Katrina, after Rita, after Gustav, and Ike. Just as we did back in 1983 and back in March of this year, the last time floodwaters claimed vast swaths of neighborhoods in our region.

We will rebuild, but we will never forget the Great Flood of 2016—the hurricane with no name.

Information For Those In the Region:


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Categories: Uncategorized

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section (VBAC) + Repeat C-Sections: Myths vs Reality, Part Two

By and January 27, 2016 1 Comment

Interview with Dr. Jean-Gilles Tchabo 

In my last post (which you can read here), I talked
about my experience approaching the delivery of my second child, after having an emergency c-section for my first.

The OB/GYN I chose for my second pregnancy, Dr. Jean-Gilles Tchabo, encourages vaginal deliveries after cesarean sections (VBACs) as an option for women in my situation. In the last post we dispelled some of the myths about VBACs, and today, we delve deeper into the topic as I pose a couple of reader questions about VBACs and repeat c-sections to Dr. Tchabo.

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Categories: Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning, Science 101 + Mythbusting

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section (VBAC) + Repeat C-Sections: Myths vs Reality, Part One

By and January 26, 2016 1 Comment

Interview with Dr. Jean-Giles Tchabo 

When I was in labor with my first baby, my regular OB had to leave and I was terrified. I trusted my OB and didn’t know this new doctor that was coming on rotation, and I didn’t want a random doctor making medical decisions that could mean life or death for my baby and I.

The hospital staff reassured me that the physician coming on rotation, Dr. Jean-Giles Tchabo, was “the best,” and had trained every doctor at the hospital. If I wanted a vaginal delivery, they said, this doctor was the one who was going to make sure I got it. I thought they were trying to placate me until my husband confirmed it by looking him up online on his phone.

But what we want and what is medically essential are sometimes different things. As I’ve written before,  I ended up needing an emergency c-section and it was a fairly traumatic experience. However, I’ve reviewed my medical files and I’m confident that Dr. Tchabo’s decision was in the best interests of myself and my son.

For my recent pregnancy with my daughter, I followed Dr. Tchabo to his own practice, and found that they encourage vaginal deliveries after cesarean section (VBAC), which something that not all practice or hospitals allow. So prior to my delivery, I decided to sit down with him and ask some questions about VBACs and repeat c-sections. Here’s what he had to say:

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Categories: Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning, Science 101 + Mythbusting

Recent Reports of Skin-to-Skin Benefits Fail to Mention Key Infant Safety Risks

By January 5, 2016 1 Comment

Last week, news of a recent study trickled  across my newsfeed, touting the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with infants. That study, published online by the American Association of Pediatrics,  presented evidence in support of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), which is a method that involves infants being carried and held with prolonged skin-to-skin contact (S2S).

As is often the case, though, the mainstream media picked up the story and ran with it, touting the potential benefits of the practices, while making no mention of any risk. But there are risks – and I believe a parent needs to be aware before putting the practices into place.

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Categories: Accidents, Injuries, + Abuse, Ages + Stages, Newborns + Infants, Science 101 + Mythbusting

Confessions of a Toddler School Drop-Out

By December 14, 2015 No Comments

This post originally appeared on the Graham’s Foundation blog on December 3, 2015

Three weeks ago, my toddler dropped out of school. My husband and I didn’t anticipate it. We started in September just like everyone else…with adorable “first day of school!” pictures on our front porch and excitement for everything my son would learn, and the new friends he would make.

It was a leap of faith for us to try out a group childcare setting in his second winter of life. My son, now 21 months old, was born at 31 weeks and 6 days in January of 2014. When he was discharged from the NICU in late February of that year, we- like all preemie parents- feared colds, flu, and RSV. We limited visitors, bought stock in hand sanitizer, and checked proof of TDAP and flu vaccinations at the front door.

With a thriving toddler interested in learning and socializing, we decided to graduate from the parent-nanny caregiver model and enroll him in a Montessori program four mornings per week. We took careful note of the advice from fellow parents about sickness in the first year of school or daycare.

“He will definitely get sick, but then his immune system will be unstoppable for the rest of his educational career,” they promised.

We thought we’d see a few bad illnesses this year, but for the most part he’d just have a chronic runny nose.

Boy – were we wrong.  

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Categories: Ages + Stages, Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Toddlers + Preschoolers

Turkey Day Safety: Preventing Foodborne Illness this Holiday Season

By November 23, 2015 No Comments

Lately, my husband and I have taken to calling our son “Turkey.” I can’t really pinpoint what started it, but he’s at that age (almost 2) where the nickname just fits (parents, you know what I’m talking about). Speaking of turkeys, those majestically hideous yet delicious birds, there’s nothing that would ruin a good post-feast coma like my little Turkey spewing masticated turkey all over his mother (ahem, me). Fortunately, there is a cornucopia of tips, tricks, and guidelines all over the interwebs for preparing a safe (and delicious) holiday spread.

Foodborne illness (or colloquially, “food poisoning”) can happen any time of the year as a result of improper production, manufacture, preparation, cooking, or storage of any number of foodstuffs. Using the Center for Disease Control’s Foodborne Outbreak Online Database, one can see that foodborne illness outbreaks linked to various preparations of turkey have been significantly higher in the months of November and December, and that’s no coincidence since it is the holiday season where turkey dinners are a mainstay. Among the bacterial culprits involved are Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium perfringens, and several species of Salmonella. We can, however, take the following steps in our own kitchens to prevent post-turkey trauma by these little terrors through the proper storing, prepping, and cooking of those holiday meals, and by an appropriate storage of leftovers:

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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding, Infectious Disease + Vaccines

What is Integrated Care and Why Can’t My Child Get It?

By November 2, 2015 No Comments

This post is in response to a question from Canadian reader Beth, who wants to know more about the barriers that stand in the way of her daughter (who has a chronic health condition) receiving patient-centered, integrated care.


Integrated care and patient-centered care are two terms that convey a lot of potential and promise for the parents of children with chronic health conditions, however, the health care system is experiencing growing pains in order to achieve them. Before we go on, it’s important to discuss what these terms mean.

Patient-Centered Care: This is the practice wherein the patient and their families are viewed as equal partners in the medical decision making process with the physician remaining the lead clinical partner. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) first committed to encouraging patient-centered care in 2007.

Integrated Care: When care is fully integrated, health care services are coordinated across specialties and across aspects of the patient’s life, including at home and in the community. You can find out more about integrated care from a working paper the CMA co-authored with the Canadian Nurses Association here.

In an integrated health care environment, services can be precisely targeted to individual patient needs, and delivered by the most appropriate provider, in the most appropriate environment, at just the right time.

However, achieving integrated care is a much more complex task than many suspect, and it’s a task that health care systems across the globe are struggling to achieve.

There are two main issues that prevent truly integrated care in Canada:

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Categories: Policy, Politics, + Pop Health

Big-Ticket Political Debates Avoid Key Health Science Topics. Here’s Why.

By October 14, 2015 1 Comment


CNN’s first Democratic Presidential Debate aired on Tuesday night, reminding us here at The Scientific Parent that scientific issues that affect our health aren’t a priority in big-ticket politics.

If you caught our coverage of CNN’s Republican Presidential Debate last month, you might have seen my *ahem* slightly irate post about how Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson sidestepped acknowledging that vaccines and autism are in fact, not connected. While it was disappointing, it wasn’t surprising.

Regardless of which side of the mythical party line you stand on, there’s one thing that’s pretty obvious…politics, particularly political campaigns, aren’t heavily driven by scientific or quantitative topics (as this science literacy drinking game reminds us). Driven by the behavioral science of voting and viewing patterns, yes. But political scientific topics like vaccines and vaccine legislation, a healthcare system that focuses on maintaining good health rather than our current system that focuses on care for chronic illness, or maternity leave legislation, to name a few?


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Categories: Policy, Politics, + Pop Health, Science 101 + Mythbusting