Joel Comeau 2013 Gynecologist for Doctor feature in Voila! 2013Dr. Joel Comeaux (DIP ’56)

49 years in practice | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Houma OB-GYN Clinic

“Without Nicholls, I would not have had the means to even go to college. From my Holy Savior High School class in Lockport, six of us went to Nicholls and became a physician, dentist, pharmacist, school principal, school superintendent and an astrophysicist. None of us could have afforded to go elsewhere.”

While I was a medical intern and resident, I moonlighted in emergency rooms and various hospital departments and made house calls to earn extra money to support my wife and three kids. One winter night, I was working in the emergency room at a charity hospital in Lake Charles. I was the only doctor there, even though I was the chief resident in OB-GYN, not emergency.

They brought in a guy on a stretcher. The two people with him — his wife and child — were dead on arrival. He was still alive but unconscious with a maraschino-cherry red complexion — common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. By myself in the middle of the night, I started racking my brain on what I could do to save this person. This was before there were hyperbaric (pressurized) oxygen chambers, which today can easily replace the carbon monoxide in your blood with oxygen.

I was familiar with an OB-GYN procedure called exchange transfusion, which we used for babies born with Rh incompatibility (when the mother is A- while the baby is A+). To save the baby’s life, we drew out some of the baby’s blood and replaced it with fresh blood and continued that cycle until the baby stabilized. I decided I was going to try applying that procedure to this adult man. I had never heard of it done before for carbon monoxide poisoning, but the man was going to die if I didn’t try something. So I drew off a pint of his blood and gave him a pint of blood and continued doing that. Finally, his color started returning to normal, and he recovered. It was a radical procedure, but it saved a guy’s life.

Since then, I’ve personally delivered more than 7,000 babies, but this remains my proudest case.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.