Surveying the damage
With massive plastic tarps and sandbags, Gelfand, 57, and his partner, Dr. Wayne Geltman, 47, of Hewlett, managed to hold back the floodwaters that rushed through the neighborhood the night of the storm. The trouble was the four feet of sewage that backed up from a pump house across the street into the hospital, covering the 5,000-square-foot clinic in brown fecal matter.
“It was quite a stench,” said Gelfand, who earned his veterinary degree from Iowa State University, started work as a veterinarian in 1983 and rented out the All Creatures building from 1987 to 1996 before buying it.
When Geltman arrived at the hospital two days after the storm, he said, “it didn’t look that bad” from the outside. The All Creatures sign above the entrance was shattered, but otherwise the front façade appeared unscathed.
Inside it was a different story. “There was mud and sewage and sand and dog food everywhere,” said Geltman, who received his veterinary degree from the University of Florida and started work at All Creatures in 1995. “It was almost surreal. I would never have expected to see that. We never had any flooding, maybe just a little water. It was really a shock. It took a while for the reality, the devastation, to set in.”
Fortunately, the doctors had spent the day before the storm evacuating the nine dogs and five cats that were boarders or hospitalized at the clinic to higher ground at a Malverne animal hospital.
With the help of contractors, the doctors went to work disinfecting their facility with bleach and fungicide. On the west side of the building, where animals are normally boarded, they washed down the plastic walls and cement floors. But the east side of the hospital was harder to clean. There, walls and floors had to be ripped out and discarded, along with X-ray machines, examination tables, refrigerators used to store medications — virtually everything except records, which were stored digitally and backed up.
Getting back on their feet
“It’s been hard. It’s been very hard,” said Gelfand. “Our clients have been very supportive. Our staff has been very supportive.”