Updated: Dec 31, 2019
The phrase hangs heavy in the air.
Over the past few weeks, we have not only watched the initial destruction caused by Dorain, but also the continued devastation left in its path. It is with a heavy heart that one then realizes that more time still remains in hurricane season.
I want to take a moment to step away from the headlines, and instead focus on the people hidden in plain sight. Huge losses, rainfall records, environmental disasters and epic wind gusts, all cast a large shadow over the humanity that exists in the wake.
These people are no different from you or me, their losses could just as easily be our losses. And I think this is what both intrigues people and simultaneously overwhelms people- causing them to turn their backs. Hurricane Harvey and Irma, like other storms, hold up a mirror to ourselves - our lives, values, pride, fears, and self-perception. The process can be unnerving for those of us watching from afar. However, empathy is so very needed at this moment in time, and thus it is imperative that we attempt to understand the depth and breadth of the recent losses associated with these storms.
Beginning to recount the potential extent of losses while sitting behind my desk in Vermont seems uncouth. Homes, furniture, cars, heirlooms, favorite stuffed animals, bonds, titles, photos, art, favorite books, medical equipment, mementos- all gone. Some have lost worse- their loved ones- spouses, parents, children, and extended family. And lest we forget family pets.
When we lose the things and people we love the most, we lose a piece of ourselves.
Loss of people and material items convey larger intangible losses; losses that forever shape people’s view of the world. The impact of losing your sense of normalcy and security should not be underestimated. The despair associated with having to wonder if everything will ever be ok again, is real.
And what about their health? Needless to say, as a physician specializing in mold related illnesses, (or as some say a "mold doctor" ), I am concerned. I am concerned for the many people who will fall ill as a result of continued water intrusion, improper remediation, and mold exposure. I am concerned for their dealings with insurance companies and remediators looking to take advantage of the situation. I am concerned for all of those who will be improperly diagnosed and mismanaged because of a mold related illnesses including CIRs, mycotoxicosis, fungal infections and allergies.
When I originally moved to Vermont in 2013, I can recall hearing stories and seeing pictures of the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Our small-town experienced devastation, and required national help to aid in recovery. To see the lasting impacts in our community has been exercise in empathy.
No matter where you are located in the country, please understand that it could be you someday. Behind the headlines, invisible to the masses- standing in the remains of what was your life.