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Struggling with Illness During Hurricane Sandy

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Hurricane Sandy
11/10/2012

This is my first blog since Hurricane Sandy swept through my region and took with it not only lives and property but also most of the electrical power in my area. Coming back from Sandy’s destruction has been torturous–while I now have electric power, some 140,000 of my neighbors on Long Island (NY) do not.

What do the storm and its aftermath have to do with lupus, or any disease? Simply this: the storm and its wake were occasions of peril for all residents, but for those who are disabled or who ordinarily live a precarious existence because of illness, the storm added another layer of danger.

This point was driven home a few days ago. I was at my sister’s apartment. It was midday. Suddenly I heard a voice in the frigid hallway.

“Hello,” someone yelled repeatedly. With each yell the voice grew louder, the tone more urgent. My husband and I walked into the hallway with our flashlights. There we saw an elderly man who could hardly stand because of chronic mobility issues. We followed him into his apartment. It was as cold and damp as a crypt. The man sat on a chair in the middle of the room; he was dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. He said he was desperate. His phone was dead and he was freezing.

My husband walked a couple of blocks to the library, which had power, and charged the man’s cell phone. The man’s son was contacted. We offered soup. He declined, saying he had a few apples.

That night, with freezing snow falling heavily and accumulating–nature’s insult added to the already onerous toll of Sandy–two police cars showed up. The man was slowly escorted from his apartment and taken to safety.

I thought, as I watched this drama unfold, about other events I heard about on my small transistor radio. People in wheelchairs trapped in multistory buildings without elevators. People on IV pumps and respirators without power. I thought of all the patients evacuated from Bellevue and NYU (hospitals) in NYC, people who were ill and in pain when these transfers took place. Then I thought about all the posts I’ve read on lupus sites from people who are in various stages of illness. I wondered about how these people were faring, with their challenges, in the natural disaster we called Sandy (what an ironic name for a storm that washed away so many beaches). I wondered about the lives behind these posts and I worried about them. I hope all of them came out of the storm as well as I did. The roof on my house lost some shingles and I lost a few pounds. But I gained something too– a reconsidered perspective on where my energies, in less stormy times, are best directed.

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