How we’ve learned to face nature’s emergencies with preparation

Losing power doesn't have to cause a health disaster if you plan accordingly

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by Anna Jeter |

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When I was in the fourth grade, our entire town lost power for two or three days. This event coincided with both the last day of school and my birthday. It was so much fun, I thought at the time. The ultimate adventure. My best friend slept over two nights in a row, and as the sun went down, we lit countless candles and played cards and games at the kitchen table.

The whole thing felt like a challenge. What would we eat? How would we pass the time? To this day, it’s a fond memory for me.

I also fuzzily remember my mother’s stress as she worked to communicate with friends, trying to find someone with access to power. At the time, I was on intravenous Flolan (epoprostenol GM), a medication for my pulmonary hypertension that requires constant refrigeration. We needed a fridge to store it, as well as a freezer for ice packs to use with my IV pump.

Eventually, my mom got in touch with friends who had a generator. Part of our adventure thus included trips back and forth to their home to retrieve my medication and switch out my ice packs every eight hours.

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I’ve talked about how my reliance on medical devices has increased over time. At some point in high school, we added oxygen to the mix of my needs. And now, five years after my heart and lung transplant, I rely on both oxygen and a ventilator. I also use several power-driven devices for various therapeutic reasons, including a suction machine, a nebulizing device, and a vest device.

Right after my transplants, my family and I decided to use some of our fundraiser donations to equip our house with a generator, in case we lost power again. That change took off a lot of stress. Unfortunately, we moved about two years later, and we haven’t had a generator since.

We lost power twice recently, and it’s made me and my family very aware of the steps we need to take to prepare for these events. The highest priority is usually oxygen. When we know a storm is coming, I always make sure to have several oxygen tanks filled and ready for backup use.

Most other devices I rely on have an internal battery that could keep me supported for about eight hours or so. But in the event of long-term power loss, we know we’d have to move to either a friend’s home or a hotel, a difficult feat given that I don’t travel light.

I say all of this knowing that I’m fortunate to live in the Midwest. My biggest environmental threats are storms, blizzards, tornadoes, and, this summer, air pollution. I know that people on the coasts face much larger fears and a greater chance of long-distance evacuation.

Regardless of location, I think our peace of mind is served by preparing for any potential events that may impede on our access to medical necessities. I feel confident that my preparations would, at the very least, buy me and my family enough time to figure out our next course of action. Simply recognizing that these occurrences could happen helps to ease the stress when they inevitably do happen. And ultimately, in dire situations, I’m reminded of that time when I was younger, with its notion that community will always be willing to come to our aid.

It’s a bit disconcerting to rely so much on technology and other creature comforts that could disappear quickly and unexpectedly. And truthfully, it’s easy to neglect the issue until it’s too late. But like most things in the world of chronic illness, there are always ways to be proactive. There’s so much power in facing these fear-inducing threats — and in finding a sense of personal control through preparation.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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