A Texas doctor didn’t let rising floodwaters keep him away from a teenager in need of emergency surgery — he paddled to the hospital in a canoe.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Dr. Stephen Kimmel received a call Saturday evening that the boy needed care very soon or his condition would worsen. Despite dire warnings about the incoming inclement weather from Hurricane Harvey, Kimmel agreed to perform the surgery at the Clear Lake Regional Medical Center.
Kimmel told the Chronicle that he knew he had about a six-hour window to perform surgery on 16-year-old Jacob Terrazas before the risk of permanent damage to the patient. Kimmel lives near the hospital and thought he’d be able to get there by car, but he soon discovered deep floodwaters blocking his path.
He told the Chronicle he decided to turn back and call for help because he thought, "I'm not going to be good to anyone if I get stuck."
The hospital contacted the Dickinson volunteer fire department to pick Kimmel up. Soon, two firefighters arrived at his home to help him navigate the rising water to a nearby truck with a canoe inside.
They drove as far as they could without getting stuck and then got in the canoe and began paddling toward the hospital.
Then the firefighters saw people stranded on top of cars almost submerged in water. Kimmel decided to go the rest of the way on foot so the firefighters could rescue those who were stranded. He ran the rest of the way in through pouring rain.
"I looked like a drowned rat," he said.
Jacob’s journey to the hospital wasn’t much easier. He and his mother, Yesenia Terrazas, were en route to the hospital when their ambulance became stuck in floodwaters. They had to wait on the side of the highway to be rescued by the Webster Fire Department.
The teen arrived at the hospital just 30 minutes before Kimmel’s estimated six-hour window closed. The operation, which lasted about an hour, was successful.
In a statement released by the hospital, Jacob’s mother thanked Kimmel.
“Jacob was in such pain and was shaking and hardly able to talk when we got here, but everyone here is so helpful,” Terrazas said. “This has been a long night, but this place is wonderful.”
But Kimmel’s night was far from over. After the surgery, Kimmel called his wife to check on her and their children. She said their home was flooded with five feet of water. The Coast Guard rescued Kimmel’s family, and they all went to sleep in his office. Kimmel said he and his family are now staying in a hotel. They are searching for a rental home because they might not be able to return to theirs for another six months.
Kimmel, though, said everything will be all right and he’s happy Jacob is doing well. He added that he will have quite a story for his future grandchildren.
"It was more exciting than most of my Saturday nights," he said.
Jacob and Kimmel reunited for an interview with CNN on Wednesday: