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Ochsner resident rescued by colleagues at height of Hurricane Ida

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 4:27 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It’s a night Sarah Sternlieb, M.D. will never forget.

Sternlieb, a third-year Internal Medicine resident at Ochsner, finished her shift and returned to her apartment in the Garden District to ride out Hurricane Ida.

“On Sunday evening, I was taking a nap. I woke up around 6:30 or 7, and I heard the sound of water coming into my apartment,” says Sternlieb.

Sternlieb wears braces and walks with crutches due to weak muscles predominantly in her legs. When she heard water pouring into her apartment from a possible pipe that burst, she couldn’t physically get out and began to panic.

“It was definitely the scariest moment of my life. I unlocked my front door and was shouting for help. I was hoping someone in my building would hear me, but almost the entire building has evacuated,” says Sternlieb.

Sternlieb decided to call her best friend and fellow resident, Stephanie. At the same time, she sent out an urgent message in a group text to other Ochsner residents.

“I didn’t really know how fast it was going to rise,” says Sternlieb.

Her friend, Stephanie, was the first to arrive.

“She came in and she started screaming, ‘It’s going to fall. It’s going to fall. You need to get on my back right now,’” says Sternlieb.

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As Stephanie carried her friend out of the apartment on her back, word had spread across the Ochsner campus to Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Leo Seoane.

“We had security there saying one of the residents is in trouble,” says Dr. Leo Seoane.

Dr. Leo Seoane jumped into action. He took the hospital’s high-water F-250 at the height of Ida to rescue Sternlieb.

“It was hundred-mile-an-hour winds outside. We had three routes, so I knew the city very well. We tried the River Road route, but there were telephone poles and trees in the way. We tried St. Charles, and it was blocked. We literally rode on the trolley line for a while to avoid the trees,” says Dr. Leo Seoane.

When they arrived, Dr. Leo Seoane says the two women were outside.

“Stephanie had dragged her out of the house, put her in the car, and had gone back to get the two dogs and put them in the car,” says Dr. Leo Seoane.

He loaded the two women into the truck, and they were able to make it back to Ochsner main campus.

“It was amazing that he got into a truck, and they came to get me without any questions when they knew that I needed help,” says Sternlieb.

“To be able, in the time of need, to help one of our own, one of our family members, it really is a good feeling,” says Dr. Leo Seoane.

Sternlieb was unable to return to her apartment because of the damage. She’s staying with a fellow Ochsner resident while she looks for a new place to live.

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