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.