For one mother, much more at risk during blackouts

After losing power for two weeks, Sharon Oderwald just wanted to keep her daughter safe


Power outages across East Meadow left many families no choice but to vacate their homes. Among the thousands of residents who waited up to two weeks for power to be restored, many were fortunate to have friends and families welcome them into their homes, providing warmth and shelter when they needed it most.

For Sharon Oderwald, remaining in her house was not an option. Her 5-year-old daughter, Violet, has leukemia, and was scheduled to undergo a round of treatment on Nov. 11, including a spinal tap, chemotherapy, and steroids at Winthrop University Hospital. It was of the utmost importance to keep Violet healthy — mentally and physically — in the days leading up to her treatment, she said.

So when her Randall Avenue home lost power on Oct. 29, she and Violet, along with her husband Thomas and 15-month-old daughter Josephine, spent the next two weeks staying in three different homes of friends and family, until their power was finally restored on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

“We knew if it were to get cold, and if we didn’t have power or heat, it was going to be a problem,” said Oderwald. “It would have been much more difficult to keep her healthy and to keep her comfortable.”

Hurricane Sandy’s 85 mile-per-hour gusts caused a pine tree to fall in Oderwald’s backyard. Though the tree inflicted no structural damage to her house, it took out a power line and disabled electricity in her home.

The Oderwalds’ first stop was to the home of family friends Mick and Gretchen McGowan, who live in East Meadow, but did not lose power in their Oxford Street apartment. After that, the family relocated to Little Neck, Queens, for a week to stay with Thomas’s parents, Judy and Don.

During that time, Oderwald said she hired a man to remove the fallen tree in her backyard, and had an electrician come to look at her power lines. “We knew once LIPA trucks got here, they’d be good to go,” she said. “It’s just that it took them over two weeks to get here.”

Violets, already stressed as she prepared for her cancer treatment, started to show greater symptoms of anxiety, including severe nail biting and sleep deprivation. “From the moving around, and from not being in her own environment, she started to exhibit anxiety,” said Oderwald. “I was really afraid.”

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