Natural Disasters

Friday 7:29pm Logan Airport

What’s next:
JetBlue direct flight home: 7:55pm.
Arrive home at RDU: 10pm.
Started the day at 4:30am. Rocky start.
Morning flight delayed due to de-icing procedure.

And now it is 7:29pm – Friday.
Feet hurt.
Back aches.
Eyes sting.
Too tired to read.
Sea of humanity in Terminal C.

I was sitting in Boston’s Logan Airport on Friday night, feeling like I usually do after a long day of travel (physically and mentally exhausted), when I decided to start writing – stream of consciousness journaling. As I typed out the words, I began to realize I had let myself lose the bigger picture: Hurricane Sandy and its impact on so many people on the east coast. Sure, I was beat, but I had bottled water, food, a charged cell phone, and a way home later that evening. My home, back in North Carolina, was undamaged by the storm. And my family was safe and sound. I had a lot of things for which to be thankful.

Having lived in the Virgin Islands (St. Thomas) and North Carolina, I’ve seen the devastation that hurricanes can reap on a community. When Hurricane Fran hit North Carolina in 1996, I was without power or water for seven days. But unlike so many of the people in New Jersey and New York, I had access to food and water, and could drive to work each day. And my home survived with only minor damage.

While I was worrying about helping my clients at Lexington Medical Center win the Pink Glove Dance Video Competition,  the folks at NYU Langone Medical Center were dealing with storm damage that significantly impacted its patient care, research, and education facilities. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the medical center was forced to evacuate patients when its emergency backup generators failed. Approximately 200 patients, 45 of whom were in critical care patients, were evacuated to area hospitals. A less publicized impact of the storm was the loss of years worth of medical research at NYU.  Research specimens at an NYU facility that houses labs dedicated to research on heart disease, neurodegeneration, and cancer, were destroyed when the facility was flooded and lost power. According to an article in The Week:

When the storm’s record-breaking tides flooded the basement, where many of the research specimens were kept, the backup generators failed, leaving the 13-story research center in the dark. The mice were inundated. Other cells, tissues, and animals used for medical research died slowly in idle refrigerators, freezers, and incubators. Precious enzymes, antibodies, and DNA strands generated by scientists and stored at temperatures as cold as -80 degrees were also almost surely destroyed.

Some scientists doing doctoral or post-doc research may have been several years into a five- or six-year program, and may have to essentially start over from square one. Some of the mice that were lost had been genetically engineered for use studying melanoma and other diseases, and it could take several years of careful breeding to rebuild the colony. Researchers have to identify a gene to be studied, inject the altered gene into mouse blastocysts, and make sure the offspring can pass the traits along to following generations.

It was an incredibly rough week for so many people, filled with loss and anguish. And it will continue to be difficult for some time. During this month when we traditionally give thanks for all that we have in our lives, I will definitely think of those people who have lost so much due to Hurricane Sandy. For me, it certainly puts things into perspective.

1 comment on “Friday 7:29pm Logan Airport

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