Some of the kidney center’s patients might have chosen to ride out the storm regardless of official warnings. Mr. Condore said he had just had his roof redone, and thought he would be fine.
In downtown Cape Coral, a city crisscrossed by canals, the kidney center “went through hell” trying to account for patients’ whereabouts after the storm hit, said Dr. Ankush Gulati, a nephrologist at the center. Some had fled or been rescued from rising waters. Phone lines were severed across the region.
Robert Hensley, a registered nurse, hunkered down in the center with another employee, using it as a “home base” during the harrowing hours when Ian came ashore. The building used to be a bank, so it felt safe enough, he said. Mr. Hensley and his co-worker advised patients to download walkie-talkie apps on their phones or to use radios to keep in contact.
After the storm moved on, Mr. Hensley found himself picking up patients off fishing boats at makeshift docks and driving them to dialysis. Even with those efforts, though some went too long without treatment, and had to be hospitalized, Dr. Gulati said. None of the patients from Cape Coral died, he said, but some remained in hospitals for up to two weeks after the storm.
At the same time, the center struggled with restricted water supplies, because the electric power needed to keep the water flowing was out across much of Lee County, and key water lines had been severed. Because of the large volume needed for dialysis equipment and the treatment process, it takes “swimming pools’ worth” of water for a center to function, Dr. Gulati said. So the Cape Coral clinic had to rely on water tanks brought in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency from as far away as Texas.
Other dialysis centers also felt the loss of water, power and accessible roads. DaVita Dialysis, a national provider, shut down 35 of its centers for various periods of time during and after the storm, a spokeswoman said; the company advised the affected patients to begin a three-day emergency diet that reduces the need for dialysis. Within five days of landfall, all of DaVita’s patients had received their treatments, the company said.
Fresenius, another national dialysis provider, had emergency generators, water, fuel and food available at its centers in the storm’s path, a spokesman said.