Superstorm Sandy: Before, During And Beyond
4:29 pm
Wed November 14, 2012

For Some Sandy Survivors, Medicine's The Big Worry

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 5:15 pm

In Coney Island, on the southern end of Brooklyn, long lines of EMS trucks and buses of National Guardsmen rolled down the roads this week — trekking from residential building to building.

Since Friday, dozens of troops and officials from the City Health Department have been dropping in at the hardest hit areas of New York, making sure all residents are equipped with the essentials: Do they have food? Water? Do they need medical attention?

At one building where they stop, most of the power is back on. But John Twomey, the physician on site, says power's not the biggest issue for some people.

The storm didn't just cut out electricity. It closed many pharmacies, kept home health care aides from getting to their patients, and flooded many of the clinics people rely on.

Twomey's mission is to get medicine to people who don't have access to their doctors or can't get out of their apartments. Most residents in this building are senior citizens who live alone.

"The main thing we're looking for is people that are out of their medications," he says.

At one door, Twomey writes five prescriptions for a 69-year-old woman. He tells her the drugs will be home-delivered as soon as possible from the closest open pharmacy

After the physician leaves, caregiver Maylive Philip, can't stop expressing her gratitude.

"I was thinking where could I get her medication — and her refill is almost through," Philip says. "When they came, oh that was the happiest thing I've ever seen. Excellent."

Philip says she doesn't have to worry anymore, but not everyone is so lucky. City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley says his department is trying to send helping hands to every high-rise in Coney Island by the end of the week. So, many residents are still waiting for that knock on the door.

Roaming through Coney Island at night, 52-year-old Anita Walker says she wants go home. Power is still out at her building, so she's going to her brother's apartment to stay with him for the night.

Walker says she is frustrated because the medication she usually has delivered every month didn't arrive at her building last week.

"A lot of them are using excuses — these buildings are flooded or whatever," Walker says. "I've been walking by myself every day to get, y'know, [a] change of clothes and everything. And nobody is telling me where's the medicine at."

Regardless of the reason, Walker has no choice but to wait. But for her brother, Michael Liburd, waiting is a dangerous option.

Liburd is paralyzed from the waist down and has been waiting on vital custom-made medical supplies he ordered from New Jersey. He says the supplies were supposed to arrive around the time the storm hit and the delivery company can't find them. Liburd says he's afraid he'll have to go to a hospital if he doesn't receive them soon.

"People need to pay more attention to folks with special needs," Liburd says. "My meds are important."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

More than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, many people in New York and New Jersey are still focused on restoring the basics - food, electricity, shelter. Most vulnerable among them are the elderly and sick, who can't get to their doctors or refill prescriptions.

NPR's Reema Khrais has that story from Coney Island.

REEMA KHRAIS, BYLINE: When I visited Coney Island, it took less than a minute before I spotted long lines of EMS trucks and buses of National Guardsmen rolling down the road.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLES)

KHRAIS: They're trekking from residential building to building, knocking on door after door.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hi, Ma'am. We're with the New York National Guard. We're here to see if you're OK.

KHRAIS: Since Friday, dozens of troops and officials from the City Health Department have been dropping in at the hardest hit areas of New York, making sure all residents are equipped with the essentials.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Do they have food? Do you need any medical attention? You're all set?

KHRAIS: At this building, most of the power is back. But John Twomey, who's a physician on site, tells me that's really the issue.

DR. JOHN TWOMEY: The main thing we're looking for is people that are out of their medications.

KHRAIS: See, the storm didn't just cut out electricity. It closed many pharmacies, kept home care aides from getting to their patients, and flooded many of clinics. Twomey's mission is to get medicine to people who don't have access to their doctors or can't get out of their apartments. Most residents in this building are senior citizens who live alone.

At one door, Twomey writes five prescriptions for a 69-year-old woman.

TWOMEY: She a diabetic?

KHRAIS: He says the drugs will be home-delivered as soon as possible from the closest open pharmacy.

TWOMEY: And you have one refill on this prescription which should last until your doctor's office opens up.

KHRAIS: After the physician leaves, caregiver Maylive Philip can't stop expressing her gratitude.

MAYLIVE PHILIP: I was thinking where could I get her medication and her refill is almost due. But when they came, oh, that was the happiest thing I've ever seen. Excellent.

KHRAIS: And tonight you don't have to worry about it.

PHILIP: Don't have to worry about it anymore. That's an excellent job.

KHRAIS: But not everyone is so lucky. City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley says his department is trying to send helping hands to every high-rise in Coney Island by the end of the week. So, many residents are still waiting for that knock on the door.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

KHRAIS: Roaming around Coney Island at night, I ran into 52-year-old Anita Walker.

ANITA WALKER: I want to go home.

KHRAIS: She wants go home. Power is still out at her building, so she's trailing into her brother's apartment to stay with him for the night. She's also frustrated because the medication she has delivered every month didn't arrive at her building last week.

WALKER: And I'm still waiting for my medication for my high blood pressure.

KHRAIS: You still don't have it.

WALKER: No. No, I don't have it.

KHRAIS: And you think that's because things just got...

WALKER: Yeah, because of the flood and a lot of times they just don't want to, you know, a lot them use an excuse, the buildings are flooded or whatever. These buildings, I've been walking them myself every day to get, you know, change of clothes and everything. And nobody is, you know, telling me where's the medicine at.

KHRAIS: So you're just going to have to wait?

WALKER: That's what I'm going to do.

KHRAIS: At least she can wait. Her brother can't. Michael Liburd is paralyzed from the waist down and has been waiting on vital and custom-made medical aides, he ordered from New Jersey two weeks ago when the storm hit.

MICHAEL LIBURD: It's really important medical supplies.

KHRAIS: Yeah?

LIBURD: Yeah. I need my stuff.

KHRAIS: Liburd says they got lost in transit and the delivery company can't find them. Because they're so crucial, he's afraid he'll be admitted to a hospital if he doesn't receive them soon.

Reema Khrais, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Related program: