Hurricane Irene or Hurricane Chronic Illness?

Last Friday, Hurricane Irene was headed to my state of North Carolina.  After getting home from work that evening, I looked up at the sky.  The clouds were moving incredibly fast and they were those really thin kind – you know the ones that if you could reach out and try to touch them, your hands would poke right through to the other side.  As I watched this surreal sky, I thought it could easily be a shot in a movie that was time-lapsed to portray a story moving through years in a blip of seconds.  I watched these clouds for awhile.  They were beautiful, powerful, yet delicate, and what they were to bring to my home was anyone’s guess at that point.


I was perhaps a bit more stressed than I was during our last hurricane encounter because my family’s situation is quite different.  My husband Jim is very ill with chronic Lyme Disease and, among other hardships, he uses a ventilator to help him breathe at night and as needed throughout the day.  Jim’s diaphragm was hit badly by the bacteria and the ventilator is used to help him rest.  He can breathe on his own without it, but lately he is using it more and more, as he is struggling to regain his strength.  If the hurricane knocked down the electricity, and the power went out for a few hours, it wouldn’t be a problem.  We have a back-up ventilator, and both of these ventilators have a bit of battery power back-up as well.  Additionally, we have another battery backup pack that would last 8 or so hours.  If the power, however, went out longer than 8 hours, there would be serious problems.  Still, we did have access to a generator and, in general, considering the potential of major disaster headed to our home in several hours, I was for the most part calm.  (I am confident part of this was due to the fact that the predicted path of the hurricane was to just miss our hometown of Raleigh.)


A hurricane turns out to be a lot like what we have been dealing with as a family with Jim’s chronic illness.  It sounds so cliché to say a storm is like an illness, with darkness occurring before the light and that after a storm happens, the daylight will come again.  Still, as I pondered this way too often-used analogy, I saw things at a different level.


With the impeding hurricane, we had a warning and forecast from the weather people – we knew trouble was ahead.  We could clearly see the path of the storm on our television screens and although we didn’t know exactly when it would strike the coast, we had a general idea that it was going to be Saturday morning.  But we didn’t know how intense the storm would be, how long it would last, and most importantly, what the effects of its strength would be.  We could prepare as best as we knew how and, other than that, it was out of our control.


As for Jim’s illness, we had some warning that there were problems with his health, but we certainly had no idea of the severity or the consequences his illness would bring.  After his diagnosis of chronic Lyme Disease with ALS-overlap symptoms, we had the forecast.  We knew to expect that things would get worse before they would get better.  But we had no comprehension really of how intense things would become.  In my wildest dreams, I could never conjure up the hell that came to my family and my home as a result.  Still, we did prepare as best as we knew how and now, although we try to gain command of our lives and of Jim’s illness, things are still very much out of our control.


We deal with this as you would deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.  You assess the damage and you switch into “get it done” mode.  What can I do immediately to help the situation?  What needs to be done once some sort of “normalcy” is back?  What are the goals and how can we move forward with all the destruction around us?  You thank God that things aren’t worse than they are, because deep down, you know that they easily could be (no matter how awful they are at the time) and you look around you for the beauty that is present, even in the destruction.


There is always good in the yuck.  Sometimes it is small, but for your sanity, you grab hold of it like it is the most amazing treasure you have ever found.  Then you figure out that if you add up all the small good parts, they equal a much larger good moment.  Then these good moments get lumped together as a good period.  Even though the storm is swirling around you and the mass destruction could come down at any moment, there is good there.  Just open your eyes to it and smile.  It is worth it and soon enough (although certainly not near as soon as it should be), the inevitable blue sky after every hurricane is there screaming, just as loud as those fast-moving gray clouds that preceded the storm did, “pay attention to the beauty and the little things in life that really are good.”  This is so important.


Then the next time that rain comes, as it did with the day after Hurricane Irene, you can count your blessings that it is not a hurricane, merely a rain shower.  Then you can remember that God is raining down blessings on you – this is His reminder to you that even though a cloud may be above you, there are good things that can come down from it.  Consider your perspective and make it the correct one, your sanity, health and life depend on it.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by patrick beggs on September 6, 2011 at 12:41 am

    nice. good in the yuck – I like it. be thankful in all things – good advice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: