Tuesday November 12, 2019

Natural Disasters Take Psychological Toll on Survivors

Across the U.S. and elsewhere, tornados, flooding and fires have destroyed homes, sometimes entire communities

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natural disasters
Janelle Crosby stands in a donated recreational vehicle where she has lived with her husband since Hurricane Michael in Springfield, Fla., May 1, 2019. Crosby fears the beginning of hurricane season. VOA

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is officially underway, yet many people haven’t recovered from some of last year’s storms. Meantime, tornados have torn up swaths of several U.S. states in the past few weeks, and floodwaters have wreaked even more damage.

Across the U.S. and elsewhere, tornados, flooding and fires have destroyed homes, sometimes entire communities. Victim after victim describes the trauma.

Preston Black in Oklahoma says a tornado threw his trailer home several meters into the air. His parents, wife and children were all inside. Then, he saw his wife in the debris.

“To see her like that. … It was awful,” he said. “The worst thing I could ever see.”

She survived. But they lost everything they had.

natural disasters
Police stand at the ruins of a hotel in El Reno, Okla., May 26, 2019, following a likely tornado touchdown late Saturday night. VOA

Hurricane Michael

Last October, Hurricane Michael destroyed entire towns in Florida. Some people are still living in tents. Janelle Crosby lives in a trailer home full of health hazards.

“Rats. Critters. It’s disgusting. Mold. This they put up to try to contain the mold. It was pink, it’s now black.”

Natural disasters affect everyone differently. In California, Gwen Oesch found that the immediate impact of loss can’t always be anticipated.

“I didn’t realize how much my home means to me,” she said, with a sigh.

Solace in numbers

When a community is hit by a disaster, it can be less traumatic than an individual disaster like an accident, according to Dr. John Lauriello, a psychiatrist at the University of Missouri Health Care.

“I think there’s a shared understanding of the trauma, which I think can be very, very helpful because people feel like it wasn’t just them. It occurred to their community and, therefore, the community is going to work together, and the rebuilding will happen together.”

In Missouri, universities are housing people whose homes were destroyed by massive flooding and a tornado. Darrell Bonner says he’s grateful for a place to stay.

“It’s a blessing living here. A lot of financial burden has been let loose a little bit. There’s hope. There are people out there willing to help,” he said.

Crosby says in her Florida community, people share whatever they have.

“We just all take care of each other. It’s hard, but like I said earlier, if one of us has generator gas, or if we have propane, we all get to cook that night. If not, we get out here and make fires on the grill and cook.”

For children, routine key

Psychiatrist Laine Young-Walker at the University of Missouri Health Care says the sooner parents can get their children back into a normal routine, the better off they will be.

“They thrive in and survive on structure and routine,” Young-Walker said. “So when a natural disaster like this happens and they get displaced, they’re not in their home anymore, their school is closed, they’re not able to go to the school. They don’t have that structure. They don’t have that routine and that consistency. And it can cause a lot of stress for them.”

If schools are destroyed, Young-Walker suggests finding ways to do class work.

natural disasters
FILE – Wildfire survivors Marolyn Romero-Sim, left, with Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, middle, and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sit inside the evacuation center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, Calif. Their RV burned up with all their possessions. VOA

Last year, a teacher turned her California home into a classroom when her students’ school was destroyed by fire. Eight-year-old Eleanor Weddig thought it was better than school.

“I love it. It’s like more comfortable than our classroom, the chairs are cushy, that’s one thing that I like. And anyway it’s a house so it’s, like, more fancy and stuff and she cooks us great lunches. Like every lunch I love,” Eleanor said.

Californian Gwen Oesch credits community support with helping people who had lost their homes during the wildfires.

ALSO READ: Tornadoes, Floods Break Weather Records in US Midwest

“It’s almost like a therapy thing, you know?” she said. “We’re all in the same place, and dealing with the same thing. We’re talking about the people who lost their homes and how sad it is. But, you know what? We’re resilient.” (VOA)

 

Next Story

Tuberculosis (TB) Survivors at Higher Risk of Developing Lasting Damage to Lungs

According to the World Health Organisation's Global TB Report 2018, an estimated 2.8 million people have contracted TB in India

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Tuberculosis, Survivors, Lungs
Published in the Lancet Global Health, the study has found that more than one-third of patients who are successfully cured of TB with antibiotics developed permanent lung damage. Pixabay

Tuberculosis (TB) survivors, especially those living in India, are at a higher risk of developing lasting damage to lungs, according to a study done on more than 2,000 Indian patients.

Published in the Lancet Global Health, the study has found that more than one-third of patients who are successfully cured of TB with antibiotics developed permanent lung damage, which, in the worst cases, results in large holes in the lungs called cavities and widens the airways called bronchiectasis.

According to the World Health Organisation’s Global TB Report 2018, an estimated 2.8 million people have contracted TB in India which represents one quarter of all TB cases worldwide.

“This study calls urgent attention to the problem of post-TB lung damage worldwide. TB is a curable condition with antibiotics and great steps forward have been made towards eliminating the disease,” said study lead author James Chalmers, Professor at the University of Dundee.

Tuberculosis, Survivors, Lungs
Tuberculosis (TB) survivors, especially those living in India, are at a higher risk of developing lasting damage to lungs, according to a study done on more than 2,000 Indian patients.
Pixabay

“But this study is a wakeup call because even if we manage to eliminate all TB worldwide tomorrow, we are going to be left with a legacy of chronic lung damage and bronchiectasis which will require better recognition and better treatment,” he said.

For the study, the research team recruited 2,195 patients with established bronchiectasis from 14 Indian states.

TB survivors and patients with a history of severe infections such as childhood pneumonia made up the majority of patients with lung damage in India. The researchers found that these infections left a legacy of daily cough, further chest infections and poor quality of life.

Patients required further hospitalisations for treatment of their lung conditions in nearly 40 per cent of cases. Patients with post-TB lung damage had lost approximately 40 per cent of their lung capacity, leaving many patients with persistent breathlessness.

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Compared with patients in Europe and the US, those in India had more severe lung damage, lung function was worse and patients were more likely to be hospitalised for severe infections.

Recommended treatment for these patients such as inhalers, physiotherapy and antibiotic treatment for infections were rarely provided.

Physiotherapy exercises and antibiotics are inexpensive treatments which are proven to improve quality of life and reduce lung infections, but were available to less than 50 per cent of Indian patients.

The Indian government has pledged to eradicate TB by 2025, however this study warns that the TB epidemic could have lasting consequences for the treatment of lung conditions. (IANS)