The October Surprise

It had been snowing steadily all afternoon – an unusual event even by Buffalo standards as it was only the second week of October. Big fat flakes that were at first melting but then, began to stick to my very green grass, baskets full of blooming geraniums and the leaves on all the huge trees in my back yard that had not even changed color. 

My children, then eight and thirteen, returned from school filled with the excitement that the first snow of the season always brings. As for me, my excitement turned quickly to anxiety when the first of many enormous limbs came crashing down on the deck. This was the start of what now is referred to as “The October Surprise,” one of the most devastating and costly snow storms to ever hit the area.

That was eight years ago, and I realized during all the recent replays in the press, that storm did just as much damage to me as it did to the landscape. For the first time since being diagnosed in1999, I felt paralyzing vulnerability and lack of control due to a weather-related event. MS has such a nasty way of changing things, and this storm showed me just how different and difficult life becomes when you are dealing with both.

We were without power for at least a week. The house became very dangerous as I tried to navigate my walker over what seemed like miles of cable and extension cords that went to the generator outside. I couldn’t help or pitch in. There was so much to be done just to get the mess in my own house cleaned up, much less lend a hand to our neighbors who were so helpful to me. I felt like I was in the way, and these feelings left me depressed long after the snow melted.

The really freighting fact is that eight years ago I was still ambulatory – now I’m in a wheelchair. If we had another storm like that I would not be able to stay in my home, even with the help of my family. What do you do when a weather disaster strikes? Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards all become perfect storms for those of us dealing with MS. How does one evacuate if they are housebound? Are shelters handicapped accessible? I don’t have answers and I’m really not sure who to even ask.

** Visit the National MS Society website to learn more about preparing for emergencies. **


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Susan Skoney, Blogger

Susan Skoney was diagnosed in 1999. She lives in western New York with her husband Michael and daughter Hannah. She worked many years in public relations and advertising, and has just started writing about her MS in the last few years.

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  • Cherie hardy   Nov 21, 2014 6:38 PM
    As soon as you believe you are an issue you are an issue. Do what you can to help. If you can help make a dinner for helping with snow removal then do something to that extent. I understand if you were sitting there waiting for someone to push around. From your blog,you don't seem to be that way. Be aware of what others do for us, find something that is compare that is something you are able to do. It is our thought! Not our physical ability!!
    Have a good holiday!
  • Debbie Renney   Nov 21, 2014 9:22 PM
    I can so relate! I live in Alaska where that problem occurs many times a winter. I can still walk behind a walker, but use a scooter at work. I also still drive but move my leg back and forth with my right hand under my leg. Some days I can move the R leg back and forth with no problem, but then there are the days when it is harder and I help with my hand. I still work full-time which helps me get out everyday, and will continue for 2 more years if I can, but I understand the frustration of what to do when snow piles high, the power is off, the roads are slick, etc. If I would go off the road, AAA is the only one I have to call. But how would I get out of the car and walk to the tow truck. Just know that you are not alone. But, I am so blessed that I do my best to not worry about the "what ifs". My co-workers help me all they can, walking me from the car to the office, and visa versa after we close. My husband of 39 years, does all he can for me, before leaving for work a couple of weeks, cooking and freezing my dinners and cleaning for me before he leaves. So, I try to always keep the things I am blessed with in my heart/mind so that depression will stay away. I think that is something we all fight against, some days better than others, but if we don't fight we will never find the joy in little things or little accomplishments. Once depression sets, our lives will be over before we actually die. Which would be so sad to see for out loved ones. Keep up the fight, and don't dwell on the "what ifs" before they happen. They may not ever occur or your family will be there to help.
    Try to find the laughs out of everyday mishaps and keep fighting.
    Have a wonderful Christmas....Debbie
  • John   Nov 22, 2014 11:30 AM
    I have just read your blog/comment which I think is great and my first reaction is that I am impressed. I feel that someone more supportive should be writing this but I know that is wrong - I have MS a very long time and have many experiences but I do not know your situation and how terrifying it must be to be affected by the horrific weather and your feeling a burden to your family and unable to assist them! I just think that they will be okay (d.v.) and they will be pleased to be able to help you!

    I look forward to seeing more of your comments/blogs.

    Best wishes

  • Karen   Nov 23, 2014 7:52 AM
    I left Buffalo 15 years ago in anticipation of that situation. I knew it would not be long until I couldn't dig out my car or clear my driveway.For as many people who have MS in Buffalo you would think there would be a mention of where people with mobility problems could take shelter in such a storm . Hang in there you have the experience to deal with this and it sounds like a nice family
  • David   Nov 23, 2014 10:19 AM
    I remember that, brutal. I wasn't yet diagnosed with MS (that was to be several years later). I'm living in Dallas now and could not imagine getting around in that snow. I am able to walk without a cane or walker but I get nervous just visiting my family at Christmas.
  • LAURIE GARVIN   Nov 23, 2014 3:33 PM
    i HAVE ms and I have been blogging for years. My blog is NORTHWESTERNVIEWS