Thursday, September 15, 2005
Before judging hurricane victims, understand their plight

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital,
Medical director

Most people are familiar with Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalytic theories. Many people have heard of individuals like Erickson and Piaget. They also created theories of psychological development.

Fewer people have heard about an individual called Maslow. He too created a theory of development. There were some strong and some weak areas to his theory. However, his theory has some very good applications in light of the events following hurricane Katrina.

The basis for Maslow's theory is what is called the hierarchy of needs. He indicates that people have different levels of needs. When their lower level of needs is satisfied, they look to achieve a higher level.

The first group of needs is called physiologic needs. The first need for the body is to achieve a stable nature. The basic need we all have is for air. Without oxygen we die. If oxygen is not present, we will think of nothing other than obtaining oxygen.

The next basic need is for fluid. We need to drink. If we do not, we get dehydrated. Thus thirst is very strong when we need fluid. Hunger works the same way when we need food. We get tired when we need sleep. We get cold or hot when the temperature is not right. Thus our body tells us what we need.

For instance, if someone needs both shelter and oxygen, oxygen will always win. The second level of needs are known as safety needs. When the physiological needs are met, the need for safety will emerge. Safety or security ranks above other desires. We choose where we live based upon safety. We choose the kind of house we live in based upon safety. We choose to work at a job because it provides us with the security of an income.

The third level of needs involves emotional relationships. These include the need for companionship. They include family. They include belonging to a community. They include needing to feel loved.

There are four additional levels that Maslow created. However, they are not as relevant to the current situation. Katrina resulted in a breakdown in this hierarchy for a number of people.

Individuals outside the area were not concerned with physiologic needs. They were concerned about emotional relationships. People worried about loved ones who were in the area. There were also concerns about security. Increased gas prices led to money worries. Decreased money could lead to decreased food. For individuals who fled the area before the hurricane, safety and security were their primary issues. Many of them had lost their homes. Many of them had lost their jobs. Or at least their place of business was gone. These individuals now have to focus on how to rebuild those aspects of their life.

For individuals who remained in the area, the needs were much more basic. They had to worry about illness. They had to worry about food. They had to worry about water. Many had to worry about survival as they were surrounded by flood waters.

This sometimes led to behavior that might not have occurred otherwise. Individuals who were stranded without food or water might be sorely tempted to take that from a local store. That might never happen otherwise.

Other behaviors that might never happen also appear. Physiologic needs create a desire that is hard to understand unless you have been in that situation. If you think about being hungry or thirsty for days, you may not even imagine how you would react if that really happened to you.

The medical problems that will follow will be another major issue. Diarrheal disease will occur from contaminated food and water. Skin infections will occur from contaminated flood water. This will lead to other unexpected behaviors. The current situation has many aspects to it that many of us outside the area do not realize. We need to look at the news of what goes on with some of the understanding that Maslow has provided to us.

Nanticoke to offer cancer screening

Nanticoke Health Services will provide prostate cancer screenings on Friday, Sept. 23. The blood tests will be offered at the Cancer Care Center, adjacent to the hospital from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. The fee for the test will be $5. Results will be mailed approximately two weeks after the event.

Prostate cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer in men. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital encourages men over 50, or over 40 and at high risk, to take advantage of this service. African-American men are at high risk for developing prostate cancer, as are men who have a family history of the disease. For additional information on the PSA screening contact the Cancer Care Center at 302-629-6611, extension 2588.