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Thursday Sep 21, 2017

Dire Situations Can Bring Out the Best in People

I was safe in San Antonio, attending the AAFP's Congress of Delegates, when Hurricane Irma made landfall Sept. 10 in Florida as a Category 4 storm. However, uncertainty about the status of my children, patients, practice and property back home in Jacksonville made for a nerve-wracking weekend.

Hurricane Irma struck Florida on Sept. 10.

Fortunately, my patients heeded the warnings of our governor and local officials and were prepared for the massive storm. Most had their medications, and those who needed specialized services -- such as oxygen or electricity for their CPAP machines -- went to shelters or evacuated to safer places. Interestingly, the worst devastation, which required boat evacuations, occurred in more affluent neighborhoods on the water. Mansions were still flooding at every high tide a week after the storm passed.

The real silver lining of the giant cloud that covered Florida was the helpful spirit of those who stepped up to lend a hand to people in need. I came home to find a couple of large trees down in my yard, blocking my driveway and covering my sidewalk. But my neighbor and I made quick work of the mess with a couple of chainsaws. My adult children also worked hard to help clean up. (It's possible they had ulterior motives because we are playing host to my youngest child's backyard wedding this week.) The only remnant of the storm at our house is the large pile of tree limbs waiting on the curb for FEMA to pick up.

The medical community also responded like good neighbors.(www.youtube.com) More than 3,000 nurses, physicians and paramedics answered the governor's call to go to shelters and recovery centers to aid the sick and injured. When our hospital began taking water, the city delivered seven truckloads of sand, and the hospital staff -- many of whom had already been in the hospital for more than 24 hours -- filled roughly 3,800 sandbags(www.youtube.com) to block the water's path to the hospital's electrical works. Despite massive power outages in the city, our hospital never lost power. Our residents never complained about work hour rules, which were ignored, and stayed 48 hours through the storm and provided care to all the patients in the hospital, not just those on our service.

Despite feeling like the world could be a pretty cold place, the volunteerism and willingness to help in a crisis I saw left me hopeful about the future. It's a shame it takes a crisis to bring folks together, but sometimes our darkest hours result in the most intense light of goodness, kindness and love.

Finally, the AAFP has resources to help physicians prepare for and respond to disasters, and you can assist those affected by the recent storms through donations to the AAFP Foundation(www.aafpfoundation.org)

Robert Raspa, M.D., is a member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 05:02PM Sep 21, 2017 by Robert Raspa, M.D.

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