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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

Background on the towns and this project is available under the about tab above.

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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- In another world, Brenda Hoffman is the intensive care unit services pediatric manager at Hancock Medical Center while Sydney Saucier is the medical unit manager.

But that was before Hurricane Katrina. These days Hoffman is the paint manager while Saucier doubles as the purchasing stock agent and trash cleanup coordinator.

Indeed, wandering around the newly refurbished hallways of Bay St. Louis' main hospital, you are more likely to find a nurse standing on a chair carefully painting the white trim than to run into an actual patient -- there are only six right now in the 140-bed hospital.

What’s remarkable is the general good cheer and can-do attitude among the staff.

During the storm, Hoffman and Saucier were among those who stayed behind with the patients who couldn’t be moved, scrambling to provide care without electricity as the water rose across the ground floor.

Hoffman recalls with a shudder how the elevator gave out only moments after the last patient, who weighed 600 pounds, was moved to the second floor.

Now, all grades and titles are temporarily abandoned. Nobody resents the reassignment, according to Hoffman. "They have been so positive about it; it’s therapeutic," she says.

The hospital hopes to get back to business by mid-November.

In the meantime, "They are the best paid painters you can imagine," Saucier jokes.

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Hat's off to you all. We Americans need to get back to the days of helping when help is needed, no matter what. You are truly "Angels of Mercy."

I just returned from three weeks in Waveland & Bay St Louis helping on disaster relief. I met doctors,nurses & EMT's who did all that was possible to save lives.They are all heroes. Our duty is to not forget that rebuilding these communties is a long term project. We should do all we can to support thier efforts.

god bless you all, another nurse in NC

We are here in waveland. First hand, the devastation leaves you speechless. We arrived here Monday Oct. 31st, 21 volunteers for HOPE for Kids (www.HOPEWW.org)from Los Angeles with a project for children of hurricane victims called "Operation Safe Place." Our main job is to bring smiles and releif to the children who have gone through so much. We have partnered with a great program called "Project-Kid" (www.project-kid.org)that provides playcares in FEMA ceneters. I can tell you that, although the despair is evident, a great air of HOPE is alive both in all the volunteers, but especially in the eyes of those that still have so far to go to rebuild there lives. I have been greatly encouraged by the level of cooperation and brotherly love, and by the desire of so many to sacrifice to come here and help. We have met people from almost every state of the country who are here, staying in tents, simply to help. For this our nation should rejoice.

Has Labor and Delivery opened yet? Our daughter is getting close to delivery and had planned to have the baby at Hancock. Her doctor has been great during all this.

As a National Red Cross Volunteer RN from Indiana, I recently returned from helping with the hurricane relief efforts. I devoted my RN skills at a shelter in Texas for 2 1/2 weeks. It was the best experience of my entire 13 year career, and I will never forget the wonderful people from New Orleans. I can tell you honestly that all the volunteers who dropped everything...to fly or drive to the southern states to help our neighbors...came back exhausted, but enriched. Please remember to "Thank" ALL the Angels of Mercy from around the country. We sacrificed more than anyone will ever know. AND we were proud to lend a hand in time of need. Our country needs more of this "Spirit" if we want to truly rebuild New Orleans and other places affected by Hurricane Katrina.
And just remember, the person who lends you a hand in time of need, might be a nurse from a faraway place called "Heaven"...or just back home in Indiana.

God Bless you all for showing such true American spirit pride in your situation, as tough as it is. It is this "real America" that an American living abroad as I am never sees in the media!

You are all my heroes! You are still there because you love the job that you do, and you want to get back to doing it. Thanks for everything you've done.

I am a retired nurse (40 yrs.) & I understand why you are painting, cleaning, etc. The hospital is a part of you & your coworkers are your family. My prayers are with you as you so diligently get your hospital readied for full capacity.You believe in your mission to provide the best health care possible for your community.

I'm so inspired by you - yesterday my mother was released from a hospital in New York that has some financial troubles, and the kindest thing I can say is that the staff did not seem to care - you are the true definition of care - we could all learn a thing or two from you- God Bless You

My sister, Denise Boudreaux, is one of the nurses at Bay St. Louis serving as adjunct painter. She too stayed at the hospital while Katrina ravaged the town. As relayed to me, the experience at the hospital was a harrowing experience. Yet despite it all, the nurses stood strong, my sister included. Thank God that no one there was lost.

God gave the largest hearts to Nurses.. God bless your kindness and unending concern for the health and care of the community you serve.

Best Wishes,

As a nurse myself, it makes my heart swell with compassion as well as pride, knowing that nurses have always devoted themselves unselfishly, to those in their time of need. So many lives destroyed, the devastation, and the journey towards starting over again that has been caused by Hurricane Katrina. You will be blessed for all that you do.

With warm regards,

I was in a nurse in Vietnam & think I understand what you're going through. Hang in there! You're appreciated in more ways than you'll ever know.

To everyone who reads this article...don't be surprised by the efforts of the HMC staff....hands down, you would not want to be any other place when you are truly ill. The staff at Hancock has cared for my husband for literally hundreds of days over the last four years...saved his life several times, in fact. HMC may be small compared to a lot of hospitals, but the hearts within are larger than life!

As a member of Missouri-1 DMAT, we are very happy to hear about the progress of Hancock Medical Center. During the time we operated our field hospital in the parking lot, we were able to see the effects of the storm surge on the facility and the area. We were honored to serve our country by assisting the poeple of Bay St. Louis. We commend the staff of the hospital who endured the hurricane and continued to care for patients during and immediately after. Good luck! Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with you all as you rebuild.

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