During natural disasters hundreds of thousands of people are at a loss. Lives are devastated, and normalcy is nowhere to be found. In the wake of such disasters hospitals and healthcare organizations work to manage their own disaster plan, and deal with the complexities of the aftermath.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, a wake up call was issued to the United States. Katrina showed levels of destruction that many of us could never comprehend. No industry was left untouched by Katrina, not even healthcare.
Now we witness the families displaced, and lives crushed, by the flooding in Iowa. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa says, “The destruction is so vast that it is simply beyond the capacity of local governments and the Iowa state government to handle it by themselves.” We are reminded how important normalcy can be.
Normalcyis not often a word that comes to mind when battling cancer. Yet, for cancer patients, their lives take on a “new normal.” When coping with natural disaster, cancer patients face their own set of challenges. Displaced cancer patients and their families need assistance, and quite often a new place to receive treatments – their fight takes on a whole new meaning.
Some of the critical concerns for cancer patients during catastrophe - What do I do if I have an emergency? What about my cancer medication? What if I don’t know what kind of treatment I was getting for my cancer or what medicine I was taking? What if I can’t get my medical records or get in touch with my doctor? What can I do to protect myself from infection and germs?
During Katrina a former staff-member of mine was approached by a woman that fled New Orleans with her family. The woman had no place to go, and she was battling cancer. All she saw was Cindy’s cancer awareness shirt, and the woman asked if she could get some help in finding an oncologist to treat her. The woman had already missed three critical treatments. Thankfully Cindy knew ways to help the displaced patient.
Charitable organizations enlisted staff and volunteers to help during times of adversity. The American Cancer Society is no different. ACS pulled together resources and came to the aid of cancer patients during the aftermath of Katrina, and work to do the same thing during other incidents. You can read more about the successes on the ACS website -Stories from Hurricane Katrina.You can also contact the American Cancer Society if you are in need of assistance, or if you would like to help those in need.