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Looking back on the historic cold spell

Ricky Donatlan, left, and Elijah Beauchamp, students at Jefferson Middle School, used the cancellation of classes on Monday as a way to make some money. Despite negative double-digit temperatures, the boys were shoveling sidewalks for extra cash. "We have lots of layers on," said  Elijah. | Denise Crosby~Sun-Times Media

Ricky Donatlan, left, and Elijah Beauchamp, students at Jefferson Middle School, used the cancellation of classes on Monday as a way to make some money. Despite negative double-digit temperatures, the boys were shoveling sidewalks for extra cash. "We have lots of layers on," said Elijah. | Denise Crosby~Sun-Times Media

I guess we really are a hardy bunch of survivors.

Calls to local medical facilities in the wake of the Deep Freeze of 2014 this past week turned up little in the way of weather-related problems.

Despite, or because of, all the dire warnings about frostbite, hypothermia and heart attacks, emergency rooms and urgent care centers reported little out of the ordinary after the first couple of days of the week produced temperatures hanging in the negative double digits.

“We were super busy,” said Deb Perez, assistant to the marketing director for Presence Health, which includes Mercy Medical Center in Aurora and St. Joseph Medical Center in Elgin. “But it was the flu and upper respiratory infections that kept us hopping. We did not see anything unusual related to the bitter cold.”

Nor did the folks at Rush-Copley or Edward Hospital in Naperville.

“Monday is always the busiest day of the week,” noted spokesman Keith Hartenberger, because people wait until after the weekend to seek help. But like Presence, the staff saw nothing out of the ordinary, with the normal including influenza cases so common this time of year.

Likewise, Christopher King, spokesman with Cadence Health, which includes Delnor Community Hospital in Geneva and Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, reported “all things normal at both places.”

Dreyer Medical Clinics also saw no uptick in weather-related cases, although four of its 13 sites had to close Monday because of the severe conditions, including the Fox Valley clinic that lost power.

According to the DuPage County Coroner’s Office, weather could not be blamed on any deaths in the county; but Kane County Coroner Rob Russell said while there “were no overt deaths related to the cold, such as hypothermia,” there were two coronary-related fatalities over the weekend that could possibly be attributed to the extreme conditions. An 84-year-old Huntley man died after slipping and falling and a 68-year-old Batavia man had a heart attack while shoveling snow, although the autopsy showed blockage in his arteries.

“Who knows if that same thing might have happened walking down the street in Miami,” he said, adding that his office is still waiting to release an exact determination on the death.

Both Russell and an Edward Hospital ER doctor suggested the lack of weather-related cases could be attributed to the several days of warning we got that this dangerous freeze was coming. People were prepared and that can make a big difference.

I can’t help but think about the two young boys I met on Monday who were taking advantage of school being cancelled to make extra money clearing snow from driveways and sidewalks. I tried to talk them into taking their shovels and pedaling home, but my motherly advice fell on deaf ears ... or ears muffled by a few layers of hats, scarves, gloves and stocking masks.

The two were undaunted in their quest, despite warnings from experts to stay inside unless it was absolutely necessary to venture into the arctic air. Thirteen-year-old Elijah Beauchamp assured me he and buddy Ricky Donatlan, 12, were dressed warmly enough for the 15-below temps that had me whining like a baby.

On Tuesday I talked to Elijah’s mother, Inez, who insisted her industrious son, the sixth of eight children, could not be dissuaded from heading out into the icebox when there was a chance to make some cold hard cash.

“He left the house early, even before eating breakfast, and didn’t come back until late,” she told me. “He does what he has to do to because he likes having his own money.”

And shoveling snow, cutting grass and raking leaves are all things that keep him busy ... and able to float Mom a $20 bill when it’s necessary.

“I told him he’s crazy,” she added. “But he doesn’t like sitting around doing nothing, especially when there is work that can be done.”

And it’s not just about the money.

“He’s a good kid,” she said. “He’ll even shovel snow or cut grass for the elderly for free.”

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