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Isaac finds same couple at Metairie hospital — just like during Katrina

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Click here to watch a video of Kim Avocato during Hurricane Isaac at East Jefferson General Hospital.

Seven years ago Kim and Michael Avocato spent Hurricane Katrina in East Jefferson General Hospital. They were caring for his ailing parents,  both patients there.

This week they’re back again for Isaac, Michael with a stubborn lung infection, and Kim looking after him, renewing old acquaintances on the staff and pitching in to help. Sure they’d rather be at their house, but Kim Avocato, who hugs the nurses and laughs easily with them, considers East Jefferson General almost a home away from home.

“They’ve been wonderful to both of us,” she said. “This hospital is the next best thing to being with God.”

kim and sandy

Michael Avocato is one of about 300 patients in the 420-bed hospital this week. Others were discharged as Isaac approached if arrangements could be made for their care, hospital officials said.

About 700 of the 1,350 employees have lived at the hospital and worked in two shifts all week. That includes 55 physicians. The rest of the employees — business staff, some medical personnel, and others — were sent away with instructions to relieve the storm crew, probably Thursday night.

“You’re not performing surgery, so all that stands down,” communications director John Sartori said. “You’re not doing a lot of radiology.”

The cafeteria has remained open, serving three hot meals a day. The hospital lost conventional electricity for a few hours Wednesday morning, but emergency generators, bolstered after Katrina, kicked in until regular power returned a few hours later. The air conditioning hardly faltered.

Water leaked into a few patient rooms. Those patients were moved to dry ones.

Some new patients showed up at the emergency room as Isaac took aim at the central Gulf Coast, but few were admitted. “For the most part, they’re people who hurt themselves getting ready for the storm,” Sartori said.

Seven babies were delivered Monday, two Tuesday, and two Wednesday. The latter four were unscheduled.

Kim Avocato, 52, is grateful for what she’s seen, in Katrina and now in Isaac. In 2005, she and her husband distributed meals to patients, helped one feed himself, and performed other tasks when not sitting with Michael Avocato’s parents or sleeping in their rooms.

With Isaac parked over southeast Louisiana and her 60-year-old husband bedridden in the hospital, she found comfort Wednesday in the attention he – and she – have received.

“They’re not only taking care of him,” she said, “they’re taking care of me.”