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thedrifter
09-14-05, 01:17 PM
'Like a ghost,' man nearly left for dead opens his eyes
BY KEITH SHARON
The Orange County Register

NEW ORLEANS This was just another body in the growing number of bodies that they encounter every day.

A human foot arching at an odd angle was visible through the front window of a locked and dark home.

The National Guard team of searchers was about to call in a "DB" (dead body) at 1927 Lopez St. in the Broadmoor district when Lt. Frederick Fell decided to investigate.

In the last few days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has ordered searchers NOT to break into homes. They are supposed to look in through a window and knock on the door. If no one cries out for help, they are supposed to move on. If they see a body, they are supposed to log the address and move on. The morticians will remove the deceased later.

But Fell broke the rules and ordered his men to bash open the door, launching a series of events that would save a man's life and revitalize California Task Force 5 from Orange County, Calif. In the last two days, the 80-member task force had identified seven dead bodies in the same neighborhood, and they had rescued no one.

But Tuesday, 16 days after Hurricane Katrina smacked this aging community in the face, an unconscious and emaciated man identified as Edgar Hollingsworth, 74, was rescued. The man is expected to survive.

"I'm on cloud nine," said Task Force leader Marc Hawkins. "It was awesome to be a part of that."

Richard Ventura, a Task Force 5 logistics specialist who works as a paramedic for the Orange County Fire Authority, was on the scene trying to get an IV into Hollingsworth.

"I feel like my battery got recharged," Ventura said. "That's why we're here."

Medics from California Task Force 5, which had been searching in the same neighborhood, were eventually able to get intravenous fluids through a vein under the man's clavicle, an intricate curbside medical procedure that may have saved the man's life.

The man had been lying on the couch in his locked and sweltering home. Fell and Sgt. Jeremy Ridgeway, who also had been searching the neighborhood for survivors, peered through the front window at the home and saw Hollingsworth's foot extending over the edge of his couch.

When they crashed through the door, Hollingsworth didn't move. But he was breathing.

National Guard medics draped an IV bag over his ceiling fan, but his veins were too weak to support the needle. They pulled him out of the house and laid him on the sidewalk. He looked as if he weighed less than 80 pounds.

Task Force 5 sent a team that included Dr. Peter Czuleger, an emergency-room doctor at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, to the scene. Czuleger didn't have the proper equipment, so he improvised, using a short needle to pierce the vein under Hollingsworth's clavicle.

"It's like trying to climb into a third-story window with a stepladder," Czuleger said.

Once the IV was in place, medics were able to pump 2 liters of saline solution into the man.

The hospital attendants hadn't expected to see a survivor 16 days after the storm.

"They were surprised at the hospital that anyone in his condition would still be alive," Czuleger said. "In 24 hours, he would have been dead.

"I think the young Army guy that found him saved his life."

Afterward, the guardsmen, like the members of Task Force 5, were excited to have finally saved someone.

"Everyone's adrenaline was pumping, but they were professional about it," said National Guard officer-in-charge Bruce Gaffney said. "We're just happy we got this guy out. He needed to be saved yesterday."

Hollingsworth had been lying naked on his blue-green couch. It is unclear if he had eaten or drunk anything for several days. He was not surrounded by food or water containers. His house was still in disarray from the storm. A chair had landed on top of the kitchen table. Medical vials with the name Lillian Hollingsworth were lying on an easy chair on the other side of the room.

A pit bull puppy was also pulled from the house. It appeared to be healthy and was transported to the hospital along with Edgar Hollingsworth.

The rescue pumped up the spirits of Task Force 5, which has been mostly marking the locations of bodies for the last week. Earlier, they had been frustrated when FEMA delayed their deployment for four days, housing them in the Hyatt Regency in Dallas.

They were frustrated further when they were given the FEMA order that they weren't allowed to force their way into houses to search them. They hope Hollingsworth's rescue will coax FEMA to rethink its directive.

On Tuesday, they were congratulating each other. They celebrated that night by eating pizza in their base camp, ordered from a recently re-opened Domino's.

"You can feel the electricity around here," Ventura said.

Ellie