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Storm focuses 'what ifs' of disability
Guest column
Bridget Gardiner
Bridget Gardiner is the multi-media account director for the Bryan County News. - photo by Photo provided.

My family and I transplanted to the Richmond Hill area almost a full year ago, having moved here four days before Hurricane Matthew hit.

We made the choice to leave Los Angeles as I have a chronic illness called lupus that was forcing me to re-evaluate my life in favor of a slower pace and a more supportive community.

Being that I am disabled and had no frame of reference as to what to expect with a hurricane, we hightailed it up to a friend’s house in Spartanburg and waited out the storm there. Being disabled means I need to have back-up plans upon back-up plans as "waiting the storm out" isn’t an option with a chronic disease.

Everything I do has to be thoroughly thought out with a back-up plan of "what if..".

What if I get sick while we are there? What if I run out of my meds? What if I have an arthritis flare up and cant walk? What if I need my wheelchair because the changes in pressure affect my arthritis?

All of these questions must be answered before I can even begin to figure out which of our belongings go with us, and which ones we leave behind.

Preparing to leave is probably the biggest stressor for anyone who is being evacuated from their home. For someone with a chronic illness, it could be life or death.

Take every medicine you can think of, because you never know if you will need it. Bring walking shoes, plenty of sunscreen, and clothing for both warm and chilly weather.

Having either cool clothing for where it is warm or warm clothing for where it is cold, can be the key to comfort when layered properly.

As a rule, I am pretty much always cold. Even 80 degree weather with a cool breeze can send goosebumps straight up my arms.

Packing meds and medically necessary items depending on the length of stay is imperative to staying healthy during what is already an extremely stressful event.

Unfortunately, during a hurricane you have no way of knowing how long your stay will be. From a couple of days to a couple of weeks, I’ve found its better to be safe than sorry. If you do not have help, please reach out. Bryan County has multiple resources, the best one I’ve seen so far is from the county itself.

To apply, residents should call the Bryan County Health Department at 912-756-2611 or 912-653-4331. The application and protected health information authorization form can also be downloaded at

The sun can be seriously damaging to even normal people, but for those of us with lupus it can cause a serious reaction called a flare-up.

For me too much sun starts with severe fatigue and then slowly does a number on my entire system, depending on how careless I am. People often forget that UV rays go straight through cloud coverage so even though there is a hurricane, it can still be harmful to someone with lupus.

Setting and explaining expectations for myself and to my boys is the biggest part of the planning process for us. Making sure they understand that sometimes mom just cant do it all and that I do need to rely on them.

There are times when I don’t know whether I am coming or going and hurricanes certainly do not help.

But it is during these times that I have to remind myself that it isn’t always about enjoying the destination, but sometimes it is about enjoying the journey.

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