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Evacuation

How much does it cost to EVACUATE in case of a hurricane?

$980.

That’s the cost for fast food (my arteries STILL hurt) and comfort food. Park admission. 6 nights at an airbnb in Georgia. Too much coffee. Not enough gas. And of course, a Walmart run for underwear for the oldest because there’s only so much I can stand him “going commando” 😉

That’s NOT the cost of the stress and sleeplessness leading up to the evacuation, the anxiety over those left behind, the time it took to connect people back home to others to help each other out and spreading information (after fact checking) about mandatory evacuations, etc. Nor the time (and money)  it took to clean up the damage from the hurricane. The week it took to put the house back together (after we took what we could and hubby moved as much as he could upstairs incase of flooding from storm surge.)

So in terms of “time” cost: 3 weeks total. But the evacuation wouldn’t have been possible if I led a “normal” full time physician life. There’s something to be said for frugality…it gives you savings/wiggleroom, options and most importantly, TIME. And time is the most valuable commodity we all have.

Evacuation

Evacuation: what I got RIGHT

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Evacuation: What I got RIGHT:

The other day I posted what I got WRONG about evacuation. Today I thought I’d write about what I got RIGHT. And tell you that being part of the largest evacuation in human history was totally surreal. I’ve never seen so many campers on the road, rest stops so jam-packed and so many massive, red gas cans strapped to the top of vehicles and trunks of sedans. And that driving north on 75, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, that southbound was mostly empty, with the occasional gas truck and empty car carriers passing us. (Hug a trucker for me the next time you see one!)

First, I made the decision to evacuate. That was the almost hardest part. I called my brother who lives across the city from me and is a boater. He told me to get out now. I thought about the tens of thousands of dollars we had spent during renovations to hurricane proof the house (as a side note, did you know you can back up into hurricane proof garage doors and they won’t even dent? Don’t ask me how I know). I decided my brother-the-boater knew more about water than I did, plus I didn’t want to test the hurricane-proofedness of the house with young kids, so I started packing. By 2pm of the day I evacuated, the county notified me that my zone was under mandatory evacuation. (nice to have external validation, lol)

Last Tuesday night I tried for hours to find a way out of Tampa Bay area: air flights, trains, hotels, etc. Everything was booked or sold out. Finally I got out of my comfort zone and signed up for airbnb, something I’ve heard great things about. The only hosts I contacted had fourteen other requests from evacuees, but because I had sons around their son’s age and didn’t have pets, they took me over the others. The week I’ve spent in Georgia though, I had an odd craving for sweet tea and peaches and keep saying “y’all.” Must be something in the water.

My van is they type that when you open up the door in car line, stale McDonald’s French fries fall out (don’t judge). I discovered something called “McDonald Cat Naps” during evacuation (again, don’t judge). All I can say is THANK GOD FOR HAPPY MEALS!! They may be a nutritional nightmare, but they are an evacuating mom’s answer to prayer. It meant I could doze for ten-minutes in the front seat while the kiddos munched and then played with their cheap toy.

I remembered to get money out of the bank! The tellers were frazzled and exhausted. They were out of small bills and told me the early rush of evacuees wanted only big bills, then it turned into small bills. I took what I could and ran.

I worked hard the day before evacuating to do as much of my upcoming week’s clinic work at the clinic so all my Veterans could be as tucked in as I could get them (incase I couldn’t get back). I can’t get back. From what I hear, there’s no gas to get us all the way home.

Serendipitously, the van was full of gas before we evacuated. We hadn’t used the behemoth in six days (since I’d filled it at SAMS) as we’d used the Prius for every trip since then. So I didn’t have to worry about finding gas until well out of the worry-zone.

This past year, I’ve been trying to follow minimalism and declutter the house. Though I still have a long way to go, minimalism helped me realize, when I looked at the stuff I was leaving behind, that life is going to be okay if I lose all my possessions. Yeah, I’d cry, but I can replace material goods. I can’t replace my kids. So I fled.

Since I grew up in a family that camped a lot, we.have.hurricane.supplies and then some! I didn’t worry about my husband having survival equipment at hand if the Tampa Bay area went to hell in a handbag. Life straw? Check. Solar camping equipment? Check. Machete? Check.

A month ago we finally got the broken cigarette lighter in the van fixed (after it’d been broken for a year and a half). This came in handy when my cell phone went on the fritz halfway through the journey and I had to use our ten-year-old GPS to navigate. Seemed a cell phone tower was down. Data coverge came back online once I was out of the Chiefland area.

I took back roads as far north as I could and used the Waze app for the first time (it’s awesome!). There was barely any traffic and the gas stations had gas! I was able to stop at a farm stand and buy apples. They came in handy because they were the only thing I could force myself to eat after I lost my appetite from not knowing if I’d see my husband or friends again. (At this point, who cared about the houses!)

I let the kids be kids. They’re five and seven. Life as a child it too short anyway: they have the rest of their lives to be adult males. I tried to protect them from the anxiety and uncertainty of it all as much as possible. I didn’t cry in front of them when I left my husband by the side of the road and drove away. (The boys still think we’re just on an extended vacation.)
We don’t have cable at home and only one TV that we use for DVD’s on the weekend for the kids, so being some place with cable is a BIG DEAL for them. It’s made dealing with my phone (that is constantly blowing up) much easier with them anesthetized by the imagination substitute known as cable TV.

I packed hand sanitizer! Absolute miracle that I remembered it! And some things called fidget spinners (you might have heard of them?) that I’d found on the clearance rack at Walmart a few weeks ago. Hands down, those gadgets were the most genius thing I did for the whole evacuation. And although I brought too much food with me, I had enough presence of mind to bring paper plates and napkins!

Now if only I had massive, red gas cans too, then I could make it back home to my husband and our family could be reunited.

Evacuation

Evacuation: What I got WRONG

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Evacuation: What I got WRONG!

I should have given my husband a lingering kiss goodbye instead of rushing off to try to get out while we still could. It sounds melodramatic, but I don’t know if I’ll see him ever again. This is by far the worst part of all this for my heart.  (He’s essential personnel and had to stay)

I only had a barebones packing list. Packing consisted of grabbing cloth bags and running around the house randomly throwing things in. Apparently no rushed packing job is complete unless I forget one child’s underwear. After forgetting BOTH kids underwear for a 5-day trip over Easter, they both now know the meaning of “Going Commando” so it’s all good 😉

I should have bought airline tickets out while I still could (and before they went up to $2-3,000 each one way!) without talking to my husband. By the time he woke up for his night shift Tuesday pm, the tickets were all gone. And maybe I should have just bought two and flown the kids alone up to NY to my in-laws so I could have stayed behind to help as medical personnel?

I forgot to pack our wedding album! (Yet I managed to bring our massive folder of all our documentation for credentialing and my mom’s genealogy books)

I should have posted a FB status update that I was evacuating. During the entire 11-hour trip north (normally 5.5 hours!), my phone was blowing up with people checking on us.

I should have listened to my gut. About a month ago, I felt a VERY strong desire to buy a camper. I think Someone smarter than me was telling me I’d need it. Like to drive to Tennessee to camp right about now! For various reason I talked myself out of buying it.

In that vein, be careful what you pray for! Recently I prayed to have more patience with my boys. I’ve now been put in a situation where I really need to be patient.

I gave up chocolate; coffee and alcohol recently for a month long “cleanse” to try to get my reflux under control. The coffee’s been the worst. I finally gave up and drank two cups today just.to.make.it.through.the.day.

Thought I was doing great when the kids didn’t ask for the iPads for the first two hours of the road trip yesterday. But then their interest in their educational apps (that would function without internet, which was few) waned after 20 minutes. Doh! I had forgotten to load the Lego app on their iPads before we left!

I should have brought more books for the kids!

I didn’t bring enough clothes (see above about underwear). I thought we’d be returning home sooner. It’s looking like we have to stay another day.

I feel absolutely drained from lack of sleep the past three nights. The first two nights my mind was whirling with everything that had to be done or I stayed up late to pack. The first night at our airbnb place I thought I’d sleep well but I didn’t. A lot of it was because I was so dehydrated from not drinking much during the evacuation. I kept waking up all night, guzzling water and peeing. I think I need to dig out a sleeping pill tonight.

I let the kids stay up until 10:30 last night (the first night at our airbnb). This after waking them up an hour early to hit the road yesterday. Not wise! They still woke up at their regular time like.all.young.kids.do! They’ve been troopers today but they’re still dragging.

And the nagging feeling of “did I do the right thing?” never leaves you…..

 

Fantasy, Writing

Shadow Boxing

“The bombs…listen…they’re seven klicks away.”

The night before my Grandpa died, he shared a story from the shadows of his hospital bed: he kept hallucinating about World War Two.

“Grandpa, it’s ok. The war’s over. You’re safe. Go back to sleep.” I held his hand and he settled back down in the dark room. With a sigh, he closed his eyes.

Over and over, he fought the axis powers as his kidneys shut down: reliving terror, death, and war.

I sat next to him and wondered what it must have been like to sign up for the Army a few months after he stopped being a teenager. How it must have felt to have people dying all around him in combat, how scared he must have been—but to be part of such a valiant fight that affected the world’s future history. These thoughts have formed the basic premise for the fantasy series I’m writing: two opposing militaries and their battle outcomes affecting the entire world.

“They’re landing now. Let’s dig in a little deeper.” His arms flailed about the bed, trying to grasp an unseen shovel. I grabbed his wrinkled hands, again.

“Grandpa, you’re safe. You’re in New York. The war is over.”

He’d sink back and I’d wonder, how did a twenty-year old adjust to the new normal, where bad stuff happened all the time, and good people died?

I’m not sure anyone ever truly adapts to that.

Grandpa never liked to talk about the war. We only found out about his medals and bravery after he died. Looking back now, I wonder if the fatigue and pain he experienced in his old age was depression mixed with some PTSD. And now that I’ve got a few grey hairs of my own, I realize I, like most other doctors (if we’re honest), have my own mild form of PTSD that I try to hide from—because the only ones in this country who see as much death as doctors do are soldiers in war time.

 

The other day, my mom gave me a present: a shadow box filled with some of Grandpa’s medals and a picture of him in uniform, recovering from yellow fever during the war. Inside the frame is part of the bronze star he kept secret. He won it for saving lives in a feat of ingenuity and courage while under gunfire. When I pass by the wall where the shadow box is hung, I touch its glass—cold and hard under my fingers—and think about how I want my fantasy stories to honor Veterans like him: the sacrifices they kept secret, the pain they couldn’t talk about because it hurts too much.

We all have tales to tell. There’s healing for others in our hurts. So let’s start sharing. I’ll begin by showing you a picture of a shadow box that I took…in the light.

Medical

Personal Statements 101: Med School, Residency and Beyond

This is a guest blog I wrote for a fantastic doctor friend of mine. If you want to read my personal statement at the end, I will forever be embarrassed (I was young and naive) 😉

“This is a guest post by Dr. Brenda Krygowski. So you want to be a doctor but you’re dreading the personal statement? Look no further, help is found here: a culled list we shared as med studen…

Source: Personal Statements 101: Med School, Residency and Beyond

Medical, Writing

Why Do Doctors Write?

He died mid-sentence. Eight years old and talking to me.

“My belly hurt, so I took some pepto from mom and-”

Eyes rolled up before they closed, his head lolled to the side, neck pulseless. Dead before we could hit the code button. An hour later, still dead.

Daily life as a doctor—in training and after—made me want to punch walls and numb the pain. If I wanted to avoid broken hands and a cirrhotic liver, I had to figure out a way to deal with the stress of being a physician.

Early on, I stumbled on two healthy coping strategies. I wrote a blog only my friends and family knew about. I also ran as long as my lungs would take me. My legs didn’t take me too far, but after awhile, I got up to three miles. Half a year later: half-marathons. Since doctors are chronically sleep deprived, the running not only seemed a bit obsessive, but an insane choice when given the option to sleep instead.

But I’d seen the other side, when doctors didn’t deal with burnout: they dropped out of medicine or killed themselves (and we all knew how to kill ourselves). I didn’t want to become another statistic.

So I ran and I wrote. And I’m still alive. But now that residency and fellowship is done, I have multiple medical memoirs gathering dust in drawers or on hard drives. But this time is gonna be different. I figure if I keep showing up and putting in the work, one of these days something will change. It may not stop patients from dying tragic deaths that don’t fit into the cycle of life, but maybe they’ll haunt my dreams less and find peace in my memories.

And maybe, just maybe, I can make a difference with my story telling, which in the end, is what most authors probably want—helping readers’ see the world a different way. One day, and one story, at a time.

Let today be the start of a new day. Welcome to my blog.