When Houston doctor Stephen Kimmel was called in to Clear Lake Regional Medical Center for an emergency surgery Tuesday, he quickly realized he'd have to improvise.
Though his own house was flooding, the pediatric general surgeon raced toward the hospital, mindful that his teenage patient, Jacob Terrazas, could suffer permanent damage if his testicular condition wasn't treated immediately.
When a flooded highway prevented Kimmel's car from going any farther, he joined forces with two volunteer firefighters, armed with a secret weapon: a canoe.
The group paddled down what was, just one week earlier, a crowded highway, and dropped off Kimmel roughly a mile from the hospital. He walked the rest of the way through water that swelled to his waist.
Kimmel with Terrazas and family after the surgery. Photo by Clear Lake Regional Medical Center.
"Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes," Kimmel said in a press release. "This young man’s life would have been changed for the worse forever if we hadn’t been able to perform surgery when we did. In the end, it all turned out very well."
The catastrophic early days of Hurricane Harvey have seen dozens of stories of volunteers from Houston and beyond going to extraordinary lengths to assist their neighbors.
On Monday, over 100 members of the "Cajun Navy," a Louisiana-based group of volunteer rescuers, descended on the city and ferried residents to safety in personal watercraft.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.
That same day, a group of Houstonians formed a human chain to rescue a neighbor in labor.
Thanks to Kimmel's long, damp slog, Terrazas' surgery was a success. The 16-year-old is expected to be released from the hospital soon.
"This has been a long night, but this place is wonderful," Terrazas' mother, Yesenia, said of the hospital and its staff.
She and her son will soon be on their way home with good news. All thanks to one doctor, two seafaring firefighters, and their determination to get the job done.