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My Fears for Those With Chronic Illness as Hurricane Irma Approaches

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As I watch the coverage of Hurricane Irma bearing down on the entire state of Florida, I feel a panic set in. Concern for my dozens of friends who live in Florida is just the tip of the iceberg. I have concern for those who can’t leave and the pets that will be left behind because their owners have no idea what to do or where to take them. I’m nervous to see what is to become of the city I was born in, Daytona, as well as the beautiful beach that I love, Flagler Beach. However, my biggest concern is for those who are ill. Whether they are chronically ill or fighting for their lives, this is an incredibly scary time.

pier at flagler beach, florida
My favorite place in the world: Flagler Beach, Florida

The first thought that crosses my mind about those who are sick is how will they manage to keep their meds on a schedule? How will they keep the meds cold that need to stay below a certain temperature? How will they get refills if needed? Whether I’m packing for a night away from home or a week, I have to plan ahead and panic enters my mind quite easily that I will forget something.

With the addition of my LEMS meds, I had to graduate to one of those beautiful seven-day/four-slots-a-day med organizers. That itself doesn’t cover all of the meds I have to take because my trial med must stay refrigerated. I have a small insulated bag I keep a freezer pack in as well as a small bottle of my trial med. When I arrive at my destination, I throw the pack in the freezer and then the small bottle in the refrigerator where I am staying. What if there is no refrigerator? What if there is no electricity to keep things cold? The viability of many autoimmune meds is dependent upon keeping the med below a certain temperature. What are the perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in Florida to do for med management in the days, perhaps weeks, hopefully not months to come?

When taking meds, people often have to plan on a small bite to eat with the meds in order to soften the effect of the meds on their stomachs. Again, in my little insulated bag I always have a snack handy. A snack that is sufficient enough to protect my stomach when I take the meds. What if food isn’t available? Worse yet, what if not only all their food is ruined in the storm, but perhaps their meds are unreachable after the storm? My experience has been that my body tells me immediately when I need the next dose of my LEMS meds. I don’t need an alarm set. I can feel immediately when things start to wear off. It scares me to think of not having my meds available as they wear off. I can’t even imagine what people who are med-dependent are thinking in Florida this morning as they watch the size of Hurricane Irma headed their way.

flagler beach, florida
Flagler Beach, Florida

One of the biggest aggravations of autoimmune diseases is stress. Stress literally causes my body to need my next dose of my LEMS meds much sooner than when my stress is minimal. For those who are trying to get out of Florida, or those who have nowhere to go, the stress has to be intense. There’s no time for yoga or a leisurely stroll when mother nature is in control of something that could be so devastating. My heart literally goes out to those whose health is affected by stress. I’m not sure there is a guidebook for this.

One part of my support in dealing with my diagnosis is being a part of Facebook groups with people who battle the same autoimmune diseases I do. This gives us all a peek into each other’s lives and allows us to support each other. Having direct communication with those battling the same challenges on top of a monster hurricane is very eye-opening. Let us remember and pray for those whose stories may not be seen on the news. Better yet, let’s pray to whatever higher power you may believe in that Hurricane Irma downgrades and doesn’t lead to the devastation they are predicting.

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Originally published: September 8, 2017
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