The storms of life effect us and teach us. Camille, back in 1969, is the first hurricane that I remember experiencing. I was nine years old. Even today, Camille remains the second-most intense hurricane to ever hit the United States. She was one of only three Category 5 storms to ever make landfall in this country. And her impact was devastating. As a young mother, my husband and I weathered Hurricane Hugo with family. My father was terminally ill, at the time. That in itself was a struggle. When the storm slammed into Sullivan’s Island, just north of Charleston, Hugo was a Category 4. We spent hours hunkered down and listening, as the winds howled … stripping away our roof. Despite the fact that we lived four hours inland, we had damage to our new home. You don’t have to live at the beach to suffer the consequences.
I have lived most of my 58 years between coastal states and the Midwest. Storms — whether a hurricane, tornado, or blizzard — are a fact of life. I have been through them all. They’re something you learn to respect rather quickly. Your survival depends upon it.
So, you monitor the reports. You dread the thought of being in its path. And you prepare, or you try to. It’s a very fluid situation, with a ticking clock. Sometimes, you have minutes. For others, you have a couple of days. Often times, with tropical systems, you evacuate. When this happens, you try your best to remember everything that you’ll need. You toss it all in the car and bug out. You wait. You worry. You pray. And, eventually, the storm does pass. Then, comes life … after the storm.
Clean-up is a hazard in itself. Returning to your home may be an issue. Flooding can require that you boil water. Electricity can be out, for days. And you may find that you aren’t as prepared as you had initially thought you were. It happens to the best of us. When it does, life can be difficult, stressful and inconvenient. But if you have a Chronic illness, it can be life-threatening.
If your medications have been exposed to excessive heat, unsafe water, etc., they should be discarded. If your electricity has been out for a long time and your medication requires refrigeration, it too should be discarded. Wounds can be problematic for Diabetics. So, please, keep your feet protected. Wear shoes. Work-gloves, too. Stress worsens most Chronic illnesses. And the days — sometimes weeks, even months — that follow a massive storm are a highly stressful situation. But you aren’t alone.
Hospitals may be heavily damaged. Doctors offices are usually closed. Yet, help can be found. RXopen.org provides excellent information about the pharmacies that are open, or closed, in any natural disaster area. It also lists the locations of shelters as well as infusion centers. The American Red Cross responds to over 60K disasters, every year, with shelters, clean water, hot meals and health professionals. The Canadian Red Cross is equally active, in disaster responses, as are all the international branches. Directrelief.org provides assistance with medications and/or supplies, for low-income patients. Chain-pharmacies can usually fill a prescription, even if you have evacuated to another area. So, call yours for more details. If you are on Medicare, you can get help by calling 1-800-Medicare for assistance on medications, plan information, or dialysis. The National Cancer Institute stands ready to assist Cancer patients at 1-800-4Cancer. And the Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers information for Diabetics and others, regarding natural disasters and severe weather. The latter is provided in numerous languages.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, over 50% of the patients who were seen in emergency care locations had a Chronic illness. Approximately 70% of the storm’s survivors had one. We saw similar numbers following Hurricane Maria, last year. As a nation, we sometimes learn lessons the hard way. The needs of the Chronically ill, in and after a natural disaster, is but one example. With each season and crisis, we become better prepared to handle these needs. And we become stronger in the process. Godspeed to all of you!
*Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash