A Patient Advocate's View

Oldsters show us how to deal with Sandy

Weeks after Sandy ran a river through living rooms and took our cars with it, we are still hearing stories of people living without electricity, heat, hot water or word about when things will be back to normal.  Yet, my clients have been through worse. Even as they are the ones who really need help, they offer encouragement and a positive attitude to the younger folks who are frozen in fear that they can’t get gas for their cars.

Just before the storm, I met with Anne and her husband Harold who live in Brighton Beach. Harold requires help to get from his bed to his wheelchair. Anne is a cancer survivor, but still supervises Harold’s home health aides, wound care and medications. They get picked up by Access-a-Ride everyday so that Harold can receive Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. After the storm, their apartment had no power, no heat and no hot water. The blocks surrounding their home were all evacuated, but their elevator wasn’t working, so there was no way for then to reach the Access-a-Ride.  For the first few days, the Visiting Nurses couldn’t get to their neighborhood because the trains weren’t working. The local stores were all closed including the Duane Reade which had a sign on it telling people to go to their other store, many miles away.  Then the National Guard came door to door and when they saw Harold, they sent for the EMT and took him to the hospital, but not the local one in Coney Island because that is evacuated also. Now Anne is traveling by taxi to visit him, but needs to get home each day for their cat. There is light, but no heat or hot water. Even with all this, she tells me first about the wonderful lunch her sons took her to in Manhattan yesterday. She also hopes to go to the Met for a show that a friend recommended, as long as Harold is safe in the hospital.

Sandra was getting rehab at the Glengariff Health Center. She was anxious to get home to her apartment in Battery Park City. Then came Sandy.  A few days later, when their phones came back on, Sandra told me that she was happy to be there, safe, warm and fed. The only thing she needed was dental floss. She told me not to worry, that she could wait until I could get there next.

My friend and mentor Martha and her husband Matthew, both in their 80’s live in Freeport. Last year, Irene flooded their basement, while they were out in Mattituck at their summer place. They came back to a black mold and had to have the whole level demolished, including irreplaceable designer details and a lifetime of photos and everything else one saves for the memories.  Now, Sandy came along and took the furnace, the water heater, the washer and dryer, along with the boxes of dry cleaned clothes that had been returned by their insurance company after Irene. Their son just moved to Florida from Long Beach. He considers himself lucky even though the antiques he left at the house in Freeport are a complete loss.

I had an appointment to take a client for a tour of the beautiful New Nautilus Hotel in Long Beach on the Wednesday after the storm. Needless to say, we couldn’t get there. We don’t even know when they can open, as the reports for Long Beach and the Rockaways are not good.  Here is an excerpt from a Daily News article, which was the only way I knew what was happening to another client, who has been living in the Long Island Living Center.

Morris Sorid, aged 102 and a Holocaust and cancer survivor, also made it through Hurricane Sandy in one piece. He was living in an assisted living facility in Atlantic Beach, just over the Atlantic Beach Bridge from Far Rockaway, Queens, and was evacuated as part of a “mass emergency exodus” as the storm approached. He is currently residing in the basement library of the New Hempstead retirement home in Kew Gardens, Queens.

He says, “I was nearly destroyed six or seven times in my life. To tell you the truth the hurricane doesn’t excite me too much.”

He has the utmost confidence in his caretaker, too – Archie Catacutan, a 26-year-old nurse. Of him, Sorid says, “I depend on him, so I have nothing to be afraid of.”

During the storm it was stressful, but Sorid was more concerned about his fellow roomies and even offered up his bed by the wall to a man who looked like he was going to fall off his bed.

Sorid survived the Nazi invasion of Pruzany, Poland (this is now Belarus) with his wife by hiding in a bunker for 18 days after hearing about the trains heading to the death camps. After they left the bunker, they lived in the forest, eventually escaping and emigrating to Brooklyn in 1948. They had left their daughter with grandparents, but learned later that she, along with the rest of their family, perished in Auschwitz. Sorid and his wife went on to have two sons, and he published his memoir, “One More Miracle,” at age 95.

“Sandy has been horrific, impacting so many, and taking so much. Sandy has caused loss of life, loss of necessities and loss of possessions. Sandy has taken so much, and for those of us not directly impacted, we thank God, maybe say a prayer and think of how we can help. For those directly affected, those who need to rebuild, we need them to know that their community is with them, that they are not alone, that there is a shoulder to cry on. That while possessions may be gone memories are not, while necessities have been taken, it is ok and honorable to accept help, accept a smile, accept a listening ear. It is ok feel beat up but not beaten, to feel weary but not defeated, to feel sad, as you hold your loved ones close and begin to reevaluate what you appreciate. While Sandy, this horrific event took so much, it did not take away those characteristics that make us who we are and makes you, you, allowing you to be who you are. Try to take steps every day, even little steps that can help you rebuild, feel empowered and know we all know how horrific Sandy’s aftermath is. “said Lori Metz, LCSW, CCM,  when I asked her for a few words of encouragement. Learn more about Lori at

November 13, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Excellent post, it really puts a face on the disaster!


    Comment by charlesbernowich | November 14, 2012 | Reply

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