There is little doubt that most of us remember the shock and horror of 9/11. And just a few years later, many of us likely recall the havoc of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. But for Dr. William Trolan, a medical director for U.S. HealthWorks in San Carlos, the memories are sharper. He recalls the events as if they were yesterday, because he was on the scene as a first responder for both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
“I still remember everything as if it just happened,” said Dr. Trolan.
At the age of 60, Dr. Trolan has accomplished a great deal – and helped countless people during his 29-year career as a doctor. But some of his biggest challenges have come as a first responder for the California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force.
Dr. Trolan grew up in Santa Cruz, California, enjoying the outdoors. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1973-1978, and from there he pursued a medical degree at Creighton University.
After establishing his career in medicine and working for a few years, a friend who was a firefighter knew Dr. Trolan’s call to give back, and suggested first response work to him. Dr. Trolan joined the California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force team in 1994.
Dr. Trolan’s most significant response efforts included helping at Ground Zero after the horrific tragedy of 9/11, and being part of a response team during the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Recalling what it was like in New York in September 2001, he says rescuing people felt like a scene out of a movie.
“It was surreal,” Dr. Trolan said. “There was a 10-area block that was devastated, and it was full of first responders. We were crawling into void spaces trying to rescue people. News reporters were everywhere, and people stood on the streets and just watched the devastation.”
Just a few years later, Dr. Trolan found himself packing up again to be part of relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina.
“New Orleans was very different,” Dr. Trolan said. “The scene was full of rescue workers. There was no power. When we first arrived in Louisiana, the water level had reached the top of the second floor of all the buildings. We had to gain access through roofs and upstairs windows.”
Dr. Trolan said they were surrounded by water and had to rely on boats for transportation.
“The freeways, unless they were elevated, were underwater, and we were using the on- and off-ramps to lower the boats in,” Dr. Trolan said. “There was no electricity, and not a lot of cell phone reception.”
He describes the scene of Hurricane Katrina as an unbelievable disaster, especially for residents – worse than the biggest disaster movie you could imagine.
“Trees were dying because of all the toxic water,” Dr. Trolan said. “There was no animal life. The only animals that you saw had been abandoned by people.”
After so many years juggling a career in medicine with the call of service for the Navy and search and rescue efforts, today Dr. Trolan is concentrating on his family and life as a doctor for U.S. HealthWorks. He helps take care of his eight-month-old daughter, Presley Paula, and enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter while continuing to help patients at U.S. HealthWorks.
Dr. Trolan’s service to our country and his commitment as a first responder are heroic, but to him it’s simply answering the call of duty.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be here,” Dr. Trolan said. “It’s our country.”
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