I practice medicine in the suburbs west of Washington, DC, and everywhere I look I see 30 or more inches of snow. I keep reminding myself of where I am –not unlike a man pinching himself to ascertain wakefulness–because the view my window affords me is tailor made for the usual snow typical to Buffalo, NY. Two days after the snow stopped falling, schools are cancelled indefinitely, most side streets have yet to see a plow, and tens of thousands are without electricity including my partner’s family huddled together like in a dark basement enjoying the extra two or three degrees of warmth to be found there.
It is hard, but not impossible, to practice medicine when the pace of modern society grinds to a halt. Yet at least we, here, enjoy the benefits of living in a country with a well developed infrastructure prepared to rebound instead of recoiling from nature. To compare our “snowmageddon” (a term used on the news here) and the earthquake in Haiti would be both inappropriate and naïve; yet, our daily lives have distinctly altered and in that an understanding of the fragility of society and the responsibility of a physician is possible. Still, there are many differences. We ask when our power will be returned, not if; snow will melt, but buildings don’t un-crumble; and while my neighbors shiver together in their homes, many Haitians seek their loved ones with a shovel.
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