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For Some Sandy Survivors, Medicine's The Big Worry

Wed, November 14, 2012 10:22pm

Story by Reema Khrais




Listen to this story on npr.org »

Pharmacy and medical services stores closed in Coney Island.

Pharmacy and medical services stores closed in Coney Island.

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."

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