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Patients stream to Manhattan hospitals, blood donors line up

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 11, 2001

NEW YORK - Victims of the World Trade Center attacks streamed to hospitals Tuesday as officials in the city and surrounding states called in every available surgeon and nurse.

Hundreds of blood donors rushed to help, even overwhelming blood centers across the country in Louisiana.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said at least 2,100 people had been injured, 600 of them taken to hospitals by mid-afternoon. Hospitals said the numbers would rise.

Some 1,500 "walking wounded" were taken across New York Harbor to New Jersey's Liberty State Park, Giuliani said. Dozens of ambulances had raced to the park, near the Statue of Liberty.

Officials at the trauma centers closest to the Trade Center -- St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital Center -- said the relatively low numbers of victims they had seen were only temporary. They said had received only people who were injured outside the Trade Center towers, and that the number would likely rise dramatically once rescue workers started digging into the rubble.

"It's a catastrophe of unparalleled proportions," said Bellevue medical director Eric Manheimer.

Amid the early rush to get the wounded to treatment, St. Vincent's and Bellevue hospitals counted only four dead.

A triage area was set up at Penn Station in Newark, N.J., to evaluate some of the hundreds of injured people taken across the Hudson River, most by ferries.

One man with burns was taken to the Jersey City Medical Center by Steve Newman. He was on Manhattan's West Side Highway, riding a livery cab to work, when he saw the man blown out of the lobby of one of the Trade Center towers.

"I took him and said 'We've got to get him to a hospital,' and the only way to the hospital was across that river," Newman said. He got the man onto a water taxi.

The Navy sent ships to New York and Washington that included surgical teams and limited hospital bed capacity. They included the aircraft carriers John F. Kennedy and George Washington.

Officials in Washington said at least 100 people were injured at the Pentagon. At least 10 were taken to northern Virginia's Inova Alexandria hospital, in good to fair condition, and 26 went to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. Washington hospitals had 40 by mid-afternoon, seven in critical condition.

Hundreds of blood donors lined up outside Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, and the line of donors at St. Vincent's wrapped around the block.

"It's a crisis. You must help. There's nothing else to do," 19-year-old donor Jessica McBlath said at St. Vincent's.

New York Blood Center officials said they were running low on O-negative blood. It can be given to any patient, but only 5 percent of people have it to donate.

The American Red Cross did not call for emergency blood donations, saying it had 50,000 units ready to ship to New York if needed. However, it urged blood donors throughout the country to keep any appointments they have this week to give blood.

Donors in Washington lined up for two- to three-hour waits at Washington Hospital Center, including Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. "Since I can give blood, this is one of the ways I can be helpful," McCarrick said.

As far away as Louisiana, blood centers had trouble keeping up with donors. "The lines go out the door and we've filled other rooms," said Gayle Landrum, public relations manager of The Blood Center in New Orleans.

"I just want to do my share," Kathy Gesslein said in Alexandria, La.

The federal Health and Human Services Department activated a national medical emergency system in an unprecedented move that would dispatch roughly 7,000 volunteer doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical staff to the scenes of the attacks.

In Nashville, Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman Clinton Colmenares said the American Burn Association had asked if the center could take burn or trauma victims from the attacks. He said nearly every hospital in the country was asked the same question.

Hospitals in Connecticut said they were prepared to accept patients, and in New Jersey ambulances were massed at the George Washington Bridge and elsewhere to await assignment.

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