I was a volunteer nurse at a grassroots urgent care clinic in Rockaway Beach during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Here are 5 things that I learned:
1. The national Hurricane Sandy relief organizations are focused on New Jersey, not New York.
Because tourism is New Jersey’s second largest source of revenue, it is imperative to restore its Atlantic shore as quickly as possible. If the State of New Jersey goes bankrupt, there could be far reaching effects felt by every American. If you want to specifically help New Yorkers right now, donate to a local cause.
2. Pharmacies are closed during disasters.
Rockaway pharmacies were without power and even if they had a generator, their computers were down and unable to track patient records and insurance information. Stores of medication had been destroyed by flood water and employees were dealing with their own losses while road closures, subway repairs and gas rations made getting to work impossible. For the rare pharmacies that did remain open, there were no incoming deliveries to replenish bare shelves.
3. Anesthesiologists are underrated.
Anesthesiologists have long been my favorite specialty of doctors because of their laid back and non-competitive attitudes. But volunteering at a grass-roots clinic run by an anesthesiologist reminded me how much they know about multiple areas of medicine if not life itself. They organized volunteers, performed I&Ds, prescribed inhalers, gave vaccinations, delivered coffee, and wiped tears.
4. Not everyone is a drug seeker.
In my hospital and clinic work, I frequently interact with highly manipulative and belligerent patients who bully me in an attempt to gain access to narcotic pain medication. In Rockaway, I met several patients who wanted nothing more than a single dose of ibuprofen for pain. They asked for what they needed and nothing more. It renewed my faith in humanity.
5. Hurricane Sandy is far from over.
Electricity is not expected to be restored in the Rockaways until after Christmas. With cold temperatures and mold from flood damaged homes, respiratory problems are going to plague the community. Injuries from ambitious DIY homeowners and volunteers taking on construction projects will also continue to rise.
Originally posted November 21, 2012.