“Sinus Fiction”

Ever since Hurricane Sandy ripped through, flooded and gutted the Tri state area of the Eastern seaboard of the United States, the South Shore of Long Island has been in varying stages of mold clean out, house dismantling and rebuild.

Every day the air rings with the cacaphony of clanging hammers, buzzing saws, startling claps of possessions and pieces of people hitting the metal of dumpsters.

Water logged, sea water and sewage deluged homes became uninhabitable and mold grew with a rapidity that was astonishing, frightening and tenacious.  Walls, floors, ceilings and insulation had to be crow barred, cut and ripped out.  Staggering amounts of mildew mold filled the air in and around our homes and throughout our  neighborhoods  and communities.

This is not your ‘oh I live near water bits of mildew’ we are speaking of here.  It is invasive, health harming and overwhelming in concentration and catastrophic amounts.

Invisible toxins hit our life’s breath and invaded so much more than what our eyes can see or gloved hands touch.

The repercussions of this unprecedented national disaster are so much more than city and community physical impacts.

While some homes have been rebuilt,  others sit gutted to the studs or still soggy with mold growing steady and stronger each day.

This at almost 9 months later, while insurance companies and government agencies and politicians play potsie with our lives.

For that is what it is…our lives.

What goes unsaid and unattended while major damage, like sewers still broken, utilities still spotty, and people driven crazy with no money to rebuild, minute to minute changes of policies, astronomical whim ridden rate hikes on everything from insurance rates to utilities and towns with no information that one can depend on for that which is needed to move forward, is taking an insidious toll on health.

PTSD is rampant and, because people are, of necessity, filling every waking moment with trying to chase broken promises of rebuild money, new and flittering codes, rules and made up legalities, on top of getting back to work to support their families; trying to provide their children with some semblance of normalcy in the middle of nothing normal, escalating physical health problems are largely swept under the rug threads  of no time to notice or do anything about.

Though I’ve talked to a few doctors at mobile mash units-which are no longer around, under the false heading of ‘everything’s back and better/they don’t need anything now,’ PR claptrap-and local pharmacists who are filling antibiotic prescriptions in increased need, there seems to be no one in healthcare who acknowledges that there is a very real and residual problem still with us in invisible airborne  reality.

In the immediate after effects, people spoke of what they call “the sandy cough.”

Jokes were made of it, which scared the hell out of me.  Memories of 9/11 dark humor which turned into dying people and cancers abounding, which are still claiming lives all these years later, whooshed through my mind like visions of Harry Potter ‘death eater’ wraiths.

A continuous cycle of sinus and upper respiratory infections sent me to the mash unit  3 times within less months.

I have been fortunate to have been out of the “zone” a couple of times and wherever I go, within 1 week, sinuses clear, energy is back and aching disappeared.

Each time returning, sinus infection finger-snappingly, returns; sneezing and wheezing commence and, even with antibiotic treatment, continue.

Eating at restaurants which purport to be “back” and better than ever, I can still taste and smell the mold.

Every time it rains, sewers back up into the streets and flooding occurs. The powers that be want to put out a veneer of wholeness but the fact is we are not anywhere near that and planting trees and prettying up is not finding what is broken and fixing vital necessities for basic health like sewers inundated, breached and broken by the unprecedented weight of ocean sand and water.

With all the good of cleaning out structures, old insulation and outdated building elements, rot and chemicals accompany the mold and mildew rising into our breathing supply.

And we are compromised.

Our health is at risk for long term effects, of which we have no way of knowing how much or how awful.

This subject matter which, I believe is paramount over all the other necessities, is real and important and is being treated like science fiction; ignored like myth.

I know that it is all overwhelming yet, without our health what does anything else mean.  If we are not around to see our children and grandchildren grow, what good does it do to have rebuilt the house?  The shop?  The restaurant?

If we allow ourselves to be poisoned, what good have we done in the name of appearances or money?

If we breathe polluted and poisoned air, who will be left to read the books in the new library, sit in the new classrooms or dance in the churches, temples and halls at weddings?

Much like 9/11, I suspect that the physical toll will become apparent long after the disaster itself, only to become the next disaster which may see us hitting the hospitals and dropping like flies.

Meanwhile one cannot live on course after course of antibiotics or keep whittling down our circle of friends with offensive sinus  infection breath.

Finding a respirator face mask in my car, I actually started contemplation of wearing the masks I wore for the immediate weeks of clean out, after the storm,  as my day to day accessory to any outfit.  Thoughts of Michael Jackson in his hospital masks out in public and populations of people in China and Japan run through my mind as I contemplate the ‘wear or not to wear’ question.

And who would be able to get kids to wear them for protection?

Health might just be best served by this addition to daily garb until we are all back home again and have certificates of air quality from the Health Department or National Institute Of Health framed and ready to grace our new, clean, mold free walls.

That or a few trips out of “the zone” to some far away place where the air is not contaminated.

So, if you see any of us survivors on the street looking like we are ‘scrubbed for surgery,’ please remember recovery is a longer, more multi-layered process than one might imagine.  We’re not all back yet or fine. We are not laggards or whiners as I’ve seen some people on facebook, etc., cold-heartedly quip.  Please, consider us courageous, persistent, smart and health conscious as opposed to weird and sinus fictioned.

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