Isle paramedics
reviving in Houston

Honolulu paramedics who rode out Katrina in a New Orleans hotel, then after the hurricane spent several days treating patients even as they tried to get out of the city, are expected back home tomorrow or Tuesday, the husband of one of the women said.

Paramedics Doreen Kitagawa, Melinda Shiraki, Jill Takayama and emergency medical technician Rochel Ortiz had been attending a paramedics conference in New Orleans when the storm hit.

They spent the first few days in their hotel, then moved to a police command post and a shelter on Thursday, treating injured and ill people at each spot. On Friday authorities helped them leave the city.

Yesterday they made it in a rental car to Houston, where today they planned to "take like a little personal day, a break trying to get back in swing of things," Hoku Takayama, Jill's husband, said. "She called me a couple of hours ago," he said yesterday evening, "and she was in much better spirits."

The women are staying with friends in a Houston suburb and plan to make today "a day of 'R and R.' We'll catch the opera or symphony and do some girl things," Shiraki said by cell phone late yesterday. She said their hosts were making an effort to return the exhausted emergency workers to a sense of normalcy after a stressful week, purposefully avoiding the areas of town where hurricane evacuees are being housed.

Hoku Takayama said the worst part of this week was knowing his wife was "in the middle of everything ... but not being there, not being able to do anything."

The women had several false starts at being able to leave New Orleans, including a failed bus ride and having to leave a police command post when there was shooting in the area, Hoku Takayama said. So it wasn't until he heard from his wife on Friday that the group was 20 minutes outside Baton Rouge that he really felt she was safe.

"I thought, 'OK, right on.' "

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