Huge hurricane UPDATE: With the impact of Hurricane Irma affecting Florida, Georgia, and beyond, a Facebook Group has been created to help these patients. Please share this group and join if you need assistance or can help provide some.

For most of us with a chronic illness, like arthritis, we have a lot of stuff! We have injections, pills, patches, heating pads, cold packs, canes, crutches, pain relieving creams, compression gloves, socks, etc.

Now imagine if you only had a small backpack and a few minutes to put everything you would need, from your home, into. Depending on your situation, you might have to grab pet food or formula for your baby. In a rush to grab your birth certificate and precious photo albums for example, many things might be left behind.

Many of the victims of Hurricane Harvey faced such a devastating challenge. Flooding completely took out the first (and sometimes only) floor of their homes. Even if you were able to prepare and had your “must need” items packaged, they may have been swept away as the water came into your home. Stores and pharmacies have been slow to reopen and most have limited inventory as flooded roads have made travel to these areas extremely difficult.

As a response to this crisis, two patient advocates and I created the Facebook group: Hurricane Harvey 2017- People who need medical supplies/devices. This group was created to secure donations of items that might be missed in traditional donation efforts but that are greatly needed by chronic illness and special needs families. The group is not an emergency service and no funds exchange hands. We have a steady stream of volunteers who can either donate items or help in providing transportation to get these much-needed items directly to patients. By filling out a simple google form, patients can request items and donors can share what they have to offer.

Our group started out with just a few members and in a week’s time has grown to almost 700 members. We have been able to help families with ostomy supplies, diabetes supplies (including blood glucose meters/strips and insulin), CPAP machines (brand new), feeding tube supplies, diapers, wipes, etc., as well as traditional items like clothing, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. We have resources for refilling medications, getting contact lenses replaced, mental health assistance, etc.

I am incredibly proud of the work that has been accomplished in a few short days. The work isn’t over though and won’t be anytime soon. How can you help? First, please share our Facebook group with your social media channels- you never know if a patient will stumble upon it and end up getting the supplies they desperately need. If you can donate items or purchase items off our Amazon wish list (which ship directly to one of our volunteers), great! If you have already contributed financially or are unable to, we can use help with calling shelters to see what items they are lacking in. Want something to do with others in your community? Visit our page and view the list of needs. Grab a box and fill it up with any of the items. We can provide you with a patient or a shelter to ship it to.

Editor’s note: here’s an additional resource from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center