Medical services in tornado zone returning to normal

Calling a pharmacy
Ethel Livingstone helped 86-year-old Victoria Lawoyin call a pharmacy to renew her blood pressure prescription on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at Hamilton Manor in north Minneapolis, Minn. Lawoyin wasn't able to take her medication for two days because she can't reach the woman who picks up her medicine.
MPR Photo/Lorna Benson

Most health services in north Minneapolis are back to normal now after a tornado knocked out power last week. But caregivers still expect to be dealing with the fallout from the storm for months.

Some residents lost prescription medications because of the tornado. And the twister also displaced many families and neighbors who were the main support networks for the neighborhood's elderly residents.

Community health workers are trying to help their clients in north Minneapolis cope with these challenges.

Ethel Livingstone is a community health worker affiliated with the Fremont Clinic in north Minneapolis. She makes weekly visits to an apartment building in north Minneapolis, to check on the health of its elderly residents.

Even though the building is a good 10 blocks from the tornado's path of destruction, the effects have been felt here too -- especially among residents who have relatives or friends living in the storm-damaged neighborhood.

Victoria Lawoyin, 86, has had no blood pressure medication for two days because the woman who usually delivers it to her hasn't been in touch with her since the tornado hit.

"She told me she was unable to take her car out. I didn't hear anything from her since that time," she said.

Livingstone checks Lawoyin's blood pressure and discovers that it's elevated. She advises the clearly upset senior to stop worrying and let Livingstone deal with the prescription.

Listening to heartbeat
Fremont Clinic nurse practitioner Krista Loop listens to Beverly Stancile's heart on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 in north Minneapolis, Minn. The 62-year-old has been feeling more pain from a car accident that occurred over the winter. Stancile said expenses from the accident and last week's tornado have been a bit too much for her.
MPR Photo/Lorna Benson

"We'll check on her to see where she is, so we can get the medication. That's the most important thing," she said. "But if you keep stressing yourself, it's not helping at all."

After a futile attempt to reach the woman by phone, Livingstone calls the pharmacy herself and gets Lawoyin's prescription renewed. She then offers to pick it up for her later that afternoon.

Prescription problems have been the No. 1 issue for Fremont Clinic workers since the tornado hit north Minneapolis. The twister that blew apart houses also scattered the contents of bathrooms and medicine chests.

Steve Knutson is executive director of Neighborhood HealthSource, the organization that operates the Fremont Clinic. Knutson says by the time some residents sought help with their prescriptions, they were already in a crisis.

Prescription problems have been the No. 1 issue in the area, since the tornado scattered the contents of bathrooms and medicine chests.

"We had a person who came to the recovery center and basically got in the door and passed out immediately. It was a diabetic patient who's sugars were way, way off the scale, way out of whack, because they didn't have their medication," Knutson said.

Knutson predicts within the next week or two that most medication issues caused by the storm will be resolved. But he thinks those problems will be quickly replaced by a surge in mental health issues.

Some cases are already showing up.

Beverly Stancile, 62, has come to the clinic because of back and shoulder pain. She was hurt in a car accident last winter, but says she's been feeling more pain lately.

Stancile tells the doctor she's stressed because she can't work as much as she'd like, and her bills are piling up. And then last week, her oven mysteriously quit working, right after the tornado hit her neighborhood.

"I was already dealing with the car accident and all that stuff, and then to put this storm on top of it is like a bit much I think," said Stancile. "I hardly ever cry, and I've been crying quite a bit lately."

Nurse practitioner Krista Loop nods and suggests that Stancile talk to a counselor about her stress.

Loop says she expects to hear many more stories like this in the months to come. She just hopes it will be this easy to convince other neighborhood residents to treat their stress related to the storm.

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