In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the impact of loss of power and flooding on hospitals and critical care facilities leads the headlines, but the loss of medicines and medical supplies needed to manage chronic diseases—like diabetes or high blood pressure—is less obvious. With the start of National Diabetes Month coinciding with Hurricane Sandy, this is a good time to examine the effect of disaster on chronic disease.
Imagine you are called to evacuate your home. What things do you take with you? Your family members, animals, cell phone, some pictures or other items of sentimental value likely come to mind right away, but what about your medicines?
What if you decided not to evacuate and your medicines where destroyed in the flood? Or, what if you took medication with you for just a few days but ended up being out of your house for a week or more? You may find that you need a new prescription or refill and if you are unable to see your regular health care provider, but may not know what exact drug and/or strength you need.
Not having the medicines and medical supplies needed to manage a chronic disease or condition can lead to many people going to hospitals for fairly routine issues, exacerbating the strain on emergency medical services.
Now imagine being a person who suffers from diabetes and uses diabetes test strips to monitor their blood sugar levels and insulin to manage those levels. People with diabetes are especially challenged during disasters as stress levels cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket and regular meal times and optimal food choices are disrupted, making an already difficult health issue yet more challenging to manage.
Without insulin or test strips, it is not possible to accurately measure blood sugar levels. In a worst case scenario, a person with diabetes could go into diabetic shock and need to be admitted to the hospital.
Two things Direct Relief recommends to help prevent this from happening during disaster is to keep a list of all your prescription drugs and strengths in your wallet, and if you have to evacuate, remember to take your medication with you in the bottles in which they were dispensed—giving you access to your full supply of medication and the important information on the bottle, like your prescription number.
Direct Relief understands the devastating impact emergencies and disasters can have on health issues and this is why we focus on making sure people have access to the medicines, supplies, and care they need when a disaster happens. Direct Relief uses state of the art technology to learn who is impacted by the disaster and what their medical needs are, and then leverages relationships with corporations to acquire and transport the medicines and medical supplies to clinic partnerships to ensure they get to the right people when they need it.
To learn more about our emergency and preparedness work, check out our blog.