Special needs and tornadoes: A Joplin story

From the CDC’s Public Health Matters blog:

It’s been almost two years since a devastating tornado ripped through the town of Joplin, Missouri, and the community continues to rebuild.  Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to visit Joplin to learn more about The Independent Living Center -Joplin (TILC)External Web Site Icon, one of seven programs chosen as a promising example of FEMA’s Whole Community Approach to emergency management.  TILC is a nonprofit organization providing a variety of servicesExternal Web Site Icon and resources to help individuals with disabilities live independently in their own homes.  Some of these services include advocacy and support, in-home care, medical equipment provision, and development of emergency preparedness plans to meet their clients’ special needs.

While in Joplin, we met 29-year-old Shandie Reed Johnson, a past client of TILC and now an employee of TILC working as an administrative assistant.  Her ability to walk is impaired due to a life-long battle with rheumatoid arthritis.  Shandie shares a firsthand account of how the 2011 tornado affected her, the lessons she has learned, and how TILC is helping her heal. . . .

How has the tornado affected your family?

May 22nd  changed our lives forever.  Apparently the first floor of our two-story home had collapsed on top of us, along with parts of other  homes and belongings.  I remember I had an artificial Christmas tree and a large, rolled-up area rug on top of me.  All around me were large boards and parts of the flooring from other houses.  It looked as if a bomb had gone off.  I don’t know how we survived it, but luckily, we did. . . .

My parents ended up renting a small two bedroom house, which is where they live now while they wait on the completion of their new home, which was donated by our church. There is not much room in the rented house, so I do a lot of “couch surfing.”  The home I am in now is not disability-friendly.

In addition to all of that, I now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Hearing a siren will trigger a panic attack.  When I’m triggered, I go into a zombie-like mode and shut down.  The healing process has been ongoing for all of us.

Read the complete story on the CDC’s web site.


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