Stepping Out Of the Shadows, Again

We’ve had a Nor Easter with heavy rain and snow squalls three days this past week, and the wind is rattling the windows in my ninety year old house. Typical weather for March in New York City. Finally. The winter has been cold and damp, with no snow to brighten the long darkness that wraps around me like a wet blanket on my way to work at 5:30 am, and closes in as I negotiate the subways and commuter railways home at 7:00 pm. If an emergency doesn’t roll in.

After a brief four days on a medical relief mission to Puerto Rico in October, the cold has been been my constant companion en route to numerous the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERC) along with scores of other skilled and dedicated public health professionals, the National Guard, and numerous New York City agencies attending to more than 51,000 asylum seekers, many of them women and young children in emergency relief shelters in all five boroughs of New York City.

Meeting essential needs, medical, psychological and material, requires a lot of ingenuity, but it always seems that a brief huddle with our administrators and colleagues facilitates the process. It is a collectively experienced group of providers, some of them immigrants themselves. Despite the profound exhaustion, I sleep soundly.

The high level of alert and need for quick adjustment to ever changing, volatile and life threatening situations has not allowed time for rest and recovery, and we are all looking forward to a new normal that is an ever moving target. PTSD affects patients and health care providers alike. But the collective positive energy of New Yorkers (like folks dropping off clean clothing and baby supplies to the National Guard on their way to work) during every phase of serial emergency events, combined with the return to daylight savings time and some sun, is most welcome and appreciated. As will an upcoming vacation as long as something else doesn’t happen.