So, It’s Hurricane Season and Also MS Pain Season

Last updated: July 2022

So, it’s hurricane season and it’s also MS pain season. I grew up in the Texas panhandle. Amarillo is one of those cities that straddles a county line, half in Potter County, the other in Randall County. Up there, we get about 19 inches of rain a year. And it’s a dry heat, averaging about 92 degrees in July, although I can remember many years where we hit over 100 and a few at 106 degrees. Of course, we also get the cold weather too, about 19 degrees on average in January, with snow. My mom used to tell stories of the Blizzard of 1957, which was three weeks after I was born. She opened the door to their house, and it was floor-to-roof snow, my dad had to dig a tunnel to get out! Most years we get about 10-15 inches, not all at once but dribbled out from October to March, although I can remember a few snows in April, around Easter, and one my senior year in May!

Finding out what I could handle with my MS

I was diagnosed with “probably Multiple Sclerosis” when I was 26. I found out that I cannot handle cold or hot, both make me hurt. Then I moved to the Houston area. Talk about a big change, climate-wise. Again, I live in a town that straddles a county line, Harris County, where Houston is, and Galveston County. My house is in Harris by 4 blocks in Friendswood. The weather here is pretty straightforward. We get about 53 inches of rain a year normally, with low temps of 47 degrees and highs of around 89 on average. We had a white Christmas in 2004, we got 3 inches in my front yard and Galveston people were building snowmen on the beach with the 4 inches they got. And I definitely remember the cold snap (read: living in the deep freezer!) last year when we got to 17 degrees with ice and the power went out for 4 days. We have electric heat and cooking, so it was horrible. I wore 4 layers of clothing, and we had every blanket we owned on the bed. With no electricity, we had pretty much nothing to do but hang out in bed.

It's the heat that really gets me though

But the hot is what hits people with MS the most. We usually get up around 90 in July and August, but this year it’s been 100 this last couple of weeks several times. And it’s a wet heat, with the humidity running at 70-90.
Right now, as I write this, it’s only 77 and we have a forecast of 4-6 inches of rain over today and tomorrow. We have a low-pressure system in the Gulf and it’s throwing rain from Corpus Christi to my house.
And I hurt.

How the pressure affects my MS

There have been studies that show that MS is reactive to low pressures. It’s not my imagination that when we get these lows, my body reacts to the change in barometric pressure.
I didn’t feel Tropical Storm Allison as bad in 2001; I was in remission. A friend invited us to come to stay with them when we “bugged out” for Hurricane Rita in 2005; a trip to Killeen is usually 5 hours took us 17 hours! My pain levels were more of the stiff and sore type.

The hurricane that caused an internal hurricane in me

But Hurricane Harvey was a doozy. That happened in 2017. I hurt like I think I’ve never have before. I could tell for days that it was on its way. I started with the stiffness, and it progressed rapidly from there. Harvey stayed around for a week and rained that whole week. Remember hearing about the 52 inches of rain in Houston? That was actually in Friendswood, in my neighborhood. We had so much flooding, I had an airboat in my front yard! Our house didn’t flood, but the wind took some of the shingles and we got water in the garage when the ceiling caved in. My living room was also wet, the carpet ruined. I spent the time keeping an eye on weather reports and trying to stay cool. We lost electricity and lived on summer sausage and cheese because that’s all we figured we needed, it wasn’t supposed to be that bad.

This season is a reminder for me to get prepared

My first hot food was a Quarter Pounder from McDonalds and ambrosia from Heaven couldn’t have tasted better. We were so happy to be able to get out of the subdivision and find hot food, it was silly.
Hurricane season is on again, it’s usually from June 1-November 30. They say those of us on the Gulf Coast are due again for a storm. The little tropical wave going on right now is reminding me that I need to not only get the hurricane supplies together but make sure I have extra medication on hand in case we have to leave. I also need to get extra pain meds and find my hand fan. I’ve been in a flare for a few months now (when is it not a flare and a full-blown MS attack?) and any plunge in barometric pressure is sure to put me in bed and in my wheelchair.
Also, stress isn’t good for our MS either. If you can pack for a hurricane evacuation or a stay-at-home situation with no electricity, that will cut down on at least a bit of the stress. Also have your stress-reliever things like a good book, squeeze balls, or other therapy items at hand. If you live near a coastline, you’re prone to hurt when the weather gets hot and you have pain with the storms, now is the time to prepare for the tropical storms and hurricanes that might in your future.

My MS/Disability Hurricane Supply List

  • Paper and Electronic version of:
    • Medication list with type, dose, times to take, doctor and pharmacy information
    • List of allergies to medication and/or food
    • Doctors list: include your general practitioner, rheumatologist, hematologist, mental health provider, pain management physician
    • Pharmacy contact information
    • Other medical information (brief list of last time you saw the doctor, blood pressure and weight/height, any changes to your conditions). *The electronic gives you access to make changes as needed and the medical personnel don’t have to read your handwriting (if it’s like mine at times).
    • Supplies of medications—take original bottles instead of the pill holders, especially if you have pain medications—some law enforcement personnel could question these.
    • Cane, walker, and/or wheelchair
    • Wheelchair charger
    • Portable phone with contacts
    • Phone and other electronics chargers
    • Hearing aids and charger/batteries
    • Reading glasses and cleaning cloth
    • Cool weather clothing
    • Light blanket
    • Comfort pillows (for chair/wheelchair)
    • Large Totebag for items you need to carry with you or a rolling suitcaseA paper notebook to hold second copies of information (I use a one-subject spiral with pockets inside):
    • List of medical conditions, including hospitalizations (I never remember the dates)
    • List of contacts (doctor, pharmacy, family)
    • Emergency contact outside of anyone you will have with you who knows you and your condition and has the authorization to give permission to treat
    • Vaccination records (Covid and other)
    • Insurance companies for medical, home, auto
    • Policies if you have them
    • Contact information on wheelchair supplier/repair
    • Veterinarian’s contact and current shot record for an assistant dog (if applicable—or if you have a pet you might have with you) Include behavior problems if necessary

And, be sure to have non-perishable and no-cook food on hand if you need to take meds with it. Include a manual can opener if you have canned foods. Remember dog food/treats for your dog. Water is also a must for this list, the water supply may be contaminated. Keep several gallons of bottled water for drinking and fill your bathtub for flushing the toilet or sponging off.

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