Yet again I am contemplating and empathizing with the plight of the seriously chronically ill in the midst of an ongoing natural disaster, this time raging wildfires in Northern and Southern California. This morning I read the story of a woman who had given birth via C-section in the city of Paradise which that very day ended up burnt to the ground. She was still on an IV drip with a spanking-fresh surgical wound and an hours-old newborn, unable to even walk on her own, and was forced to catch a ride out of dodge with a nonmedical hospital worker to whom she decreed: if the fire overtakes this car, take my baby and run. Gamely, the nonmedical hospital worker hung this woman’s IV bag from the rearview mirror and in just 9 short hours they had made the 20 minute drive to the next town to another hospital where, I presume, she is continuing her recovery from what is, of course, major (and probably elective) surgery and on top of that, likely major psychological trauma from both the surgery and the fire.
The home she had shared with her husband in Paradise has been reduced to its chimney as a large portion of the state continues to burn throwing hundreds of thousands of lives into prolonged chaos. Some 10,000 homes have burned and many more people than that have been left homeless, camping out in tents in the parking lot of the local Walmart (if they are lucky enough to even have a tent) living in cars (unless theirs was lost or left behind) or renting a hotel room if they can locate, access and afford one — every room within 100 miles is currently occupied by displaced fire victims and other evacuees.
As a climate refugee myself, before I became a cannabis refugee, I was left homeless after losing my apartment in Hurricane Sandy and I can vividly imagine and feel these evacuees’ pain, stress and grief as they attempt to survive the “aftermath” of an ongoing regional disaster where all has been lost, damaged or destroyed, and that includes all infrastructure, including medical infrastructure. While the experience of being a climate (or other) refugee in the best of circumstances is daunting, traumatizing and horrific, what are seriously ill people expected to do on top of everything else when they are also tied to the Western medical system either temporarily or for life because they have submitted to alterations/interventions like surgeries, ostomies, picc lines and the like, but where medical goods and services (including ostomy supplies and even intravenous nutrition) become unavailable due to an ongoing natural disaster? What of those who are dependent on Big Pharma drugs to manage their symptoms or who are addicted to prescription painkillers and psych meds but who, due to circumstances beyond their control, are unable to refill their prescriptions and start to experience dangerous and even life-threatening disease relapses and clinical withdrawal?