Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Ill Wind That Blows No Good

You know, things have to be pretty horrible for there to be no benefit to anyone.  And even our big wind from Superstorm Sandy did have a couple of good outcomes.

Long lines to vote in a neighbor
church basement.

First and foremost is the possibility that it was Sandy that blew Barack Obama back into office, riding on the wings of the goodwill he spread across the region, where FEMA stepped up fast, however imperfectly.  And the love affair between the President and Governor Chris Christie – well, it made me feel as though there might be hope for something called leadership instead of partisan bickering.

That win might be the biggest gift of Sandy for those of us who'd like our kids to keep their health insurance and who have girls whom we'd like to see grow up with a modicum of control over their reproductive futures.

It was the state of exception created by sheer scale of the losses that made people need to come together, need to rally.  And there is the return, in beautiful force, of Occupy Wall Street in the mutual aid work of Occupy Sandy.

Closer to home, there were the little artworks we made and the way we rallied together, and the gift of seeing a dear, dear old friend from Park Slope who warmed us up with tea and sent us home with bags of batteries and new flashlights.

And then there was how well our girl managed the difficulty of the changes: power out, internet withdrawal, no television – it was like a giant electronic timeout from the universe. Time out is definitely no fun. Instead of the comforting routine of a shower at 9 pm, she had a tepid bath with pot-boiled water.  She was a trooper for two days, but relieved to get to a hotel uptown and get warm, and go online, and use her phone.  Although after two days there, she was desperate to get home.  Luckily we got home. What a relief.

And then, there's our marvelously clean freezer and fridge. You know how it gets. When do you have time – or the desire -- to clean out the fridge? But there's nothing like a giant block of melted, spoiled, and refrozen food to get a person cleaning up.

Finally, there was the amazing thing that happened to me last week when I had to call the health insurance company about a claim that they have stalled and balked about. The health insurance company we have has outsourced some specialties to another company to review "medical necessity" on those claims.

Technically the subsidiary company staff is not supposed to talk to members like myself who are pursuing their claims – they're only supposed to talk to the health insurance company or the doctor.

But my doctor's home was without power for 11 days and her office was without phone, fax, or voicemail. This was an exceptional situation. So I was able to intervene and speak with a woman at the medical necessity vetting company who stepped up to help in the most amazing way.

This stranger on the other end of the phone said, I'll help you, I'll definitely help you. I know about disasters – I'll do anything I can to help you.

After an hour on the phone, I knew how to help my doctor document the treatment plan as they needed it and they gave me the okay to fax it from my home since I have a working fax.

Just as we were about to hang up, I said to the woman at the subsidiary medical vetting company – "You said you knew about disasters? Can I ask what you know?"

She said, "Oh I know. When I was a girl I lived in Mexico, in La Paz, and I was in Hurricane Liza. You might remember it. It rained and rained and rained, and they thought the dam was going to overflow and flood the rich neighborhood, so the government blew up the dam and the water flooded down through the poorer neighborhood, my neighborhood, below the dam, all night long.

When I woke up in the morning, I was in a pile of mud and there were corpses all around me.  For three years I had to carry water many blocks in bucks as we rebuilt our house and I stepped on a cactus because I had no shoes. The aid workers gave me tetanus shots, but they made my arms hurt so bad I couldn't bend them when I was carrying the water."

"How old were you?" I asked.

"Ten," she said. "It was 1976, I was ten."

"Oh my god.  I am so sorry that happened to you."

"I'm not sorry," she said. "I would do it again because, I know about disasters. I have compassion because I have lived through this."

It's an ill wind that blows no good is an old English expression.

The Chinese have another saying, more directive, from The Book of Changes, the Confucian oracle to guide to decision making. Work on what's spoiled. 

I think I'm ready to do that.  Fridge and freezer may just be the beginning.

1 comment:

audball said...

It's so amazing that you can find the good in the bad. I'm so proud of your girl! I think for those who do not have kids on the spectrum, there is little to no understanding about how even a small change can result in huge emotional turmoil. The fact that your girl has been through it all and is so composed speaks volumes on how you have been such a wonderful teacher and mom to her.

And about your phone conversation…fascinating, isn't it? It's a matter of perspective and of empathy/sympathy. The woman who helped you humbles me…I can't imagine going through all that she did and being able to look upon it so positively. People like her remind me that there is so much good in people too - and sometimes we need to hear from them so we can move forward.

Best of luck in continuing to deal with the aftermath of Sandy. We're thinking of you here on the west coast…!