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“You and your colleagues are currently on a medical missions trip along the coast of the Philippines. Your group consists of one attending physician, two nurses, three medical students, and one office assistant. 

For the past few days, torrents of rain have overwhelmed the village. You know from the radio that mudslides and floods have blocked all accessible roads to your makeshift hospital, which is situated on the first floor of an office building. The second and third floors of the building consist of offices and kitchens, while the fourth ‘floor’ is mainly filled with wiring and plumbing. There are thirty patients in the hospital at this time. Ten are ambulatory, and connected to IVs; fifteen are bedridden; and five are on ventilators. As it stands, the first floor is flooded with one-inch of water, and your group decides that it is time to move the patients and supplies to a higher floor.”

Our office assistant, who spoke Tagolog, instructed the ambulatory patients to take their blankets and bedsheets and walk up the steps to the second floor. The rest of us piled supplies onto the patient beds and wheeled the bedridden and ventilated patients into the elevators and onto the second floor.

On the radio, a siren blared.

“URGENT WARNING TO COASTAL AREAS. SEVERE FLOODING AND MUDSLIDES EXPECTED.”

“We already know that,” I told the other nurse.

I was trying to decide between salvaging the 80 bedsheets or the 40 blankets when the power went out. Without a moment of delay, the office assistant pulled out the Flashlight app on his iPhone.

“We can use the bedsheets as hobo sacks, or to help us rappel down windows if we need,” the office assistant suggested.

We all approved the novel idea – except for the attending physician, Grace. She was slumping in her seat with her face pressed against her desk.

“I don’t feel so well,” she mumbled.

We need to keep moving!” the office assistant bellowed over the din, scratching off boxes on his inventory of supplies. “Should we take the cell phone charger?”

“Nah,” one of the medical students said. “You probably won’t get reception in the middle of nowhere, anyway.”

“Don’t be so sure about that,” I said. “I’ve Skyped over a 3G connection in rural Bangladesh.”

A second medical student interrupted our discussion. “Guys! Grace is having chest pain!”

I called the other nurse and went to see the attending physician, whose face was contorted in pain as she whimpered and clutched her chest.

“I’ll administer nitroglycerin under her tongue!” the other nurse proclaimed, consulting the slip of paper in her hand.

“And I’m trained in EKG,” I said, consulting my own list of instructions. “But – oh no – chest pain – heart attack. Oh dear. Time for CPR!”

I called another medical student to assist me in treating Grace. Before I could start CPR, however, the siren blared once again.

“URGENT TSUNAMI WARNING. EVACUATE ALL COASTAL AREAS IMMEDIATELY.”

At that moment, my parched throat reminded me of the most essential necessity of earthly life.

Water!” I shrieked, leaving the medical student with Grace as I scrambled up the stairs to meet the rest of the group. “We have 80 one-gallon drums of water downstairs! You can survive without food for weeks, but only a couple of days without potable water!”

The office assistant marked “water” as “EH” (extra-high priority) on his inventory list.

When I returned to the first floor, Grace lifted her head from her desk and smiled weakly.

“She’s okay now!” the medical student exclaimed as I entered the room. “She’s even smiling! We cured her!”

As Grace limped toward the stairwell, the tsunami siren blared for the second time. I turned to the medical student.

“Why don’t we just leave the patients on the second floor and run up to the fourth floor before the tsunami hits?”

The medical student never had a chance to answer. We gazed up in horror through the screen above our heads. The tsunami loomed before us.

Whenever I had daydreamed of something dangerous happening in my life, something perilous and exciting, I had envisioned myself as the cool-headed hero, the one who swept up helpless children and grandmothers single-handedly and whisked them away from certain destruction. But now, our time had come to an end.

With nothing better to do, the medical student and I just stared.

To be continued in Teamwork Part 3

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