A few weeks after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, the Ponce Health Sciences University Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society reached out to us, desperate for assistance.
Ponce Health Sciences University and San Lucas Hospital are still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Donation efforts are concentrated in San Juan and the northern part of the island. The community these institutions serve is on the southern shore and accessibility is still limited.
The following are email reports we have received from two caring young doctors. Eduardo Lopez is a fourth-year medical student at Ponce Health Sciences University and president of the Ponce Gold Humanism Honor Society. His emails are infrequent, as wireless connectivity is still limited and unpredictable. Dr. Susana Vargas-Pinto is a fourth-year general surgery resident at SUNY Buffalo. She is a Ponce Health Sciences University graduate.
“We made a preliminary assessment of the areas and communities most in need of help…. We have encountered multiple amputees with infected amputations, diabetics and bed-bound patients with ulcers, needs for food and water in these communities. Our plan is to gather as much help as we can find to clean the wounds, and provide some assistance to these people.”- Eduardo Lopez
“Many students have been relocated since their apartments were affected by the hurricane. Students and residents are in need of basic supplies like water, personal hygiene products, food and snacks. The residents can’t afford to make long lines in the grocery stores to get what they need due to their working hours and some of the medical students have been bringing water and snacks for them to the hospital. The hospitals are running out of supplies: supplies for wound care, fluids, antibiotics and insulin are becoming scarce … anything will help! –Susana Vargas-Pinto, MD
“Thank you for your interest in helping the fellow Med students and residents in PR. I have not been successful in establishing contact with them again. Communication is still very inconsistent. Dr. Maria Valentin from San Lucas Hospital is the Program Director for Internal Medicine and is the one coordinating the visits to refuges and isolated communities.” –Susana Vargas-Pinto, MD
Eduardo Lopez sent us the following request for specific supplies.
“Thank you for your promptly response. And thank you so much, on behalf of everyone in the island, for caring and responding. I am sorry I could not write sooner, but wi-fi is still hard to find. …The following are in very short supply:
- Canned food
- Bottled water
- Water filters
- Water purifying tablets
- Skin tape
- Pads and diapers
- Antiseptic solution
- Plastic cups, plates, cutlery
I know the list is long, but whatever you can find.
Again, I am eternally grateful.”
Dr. Susan Vargas-Pinto wrote us with an update:
“Mayo Clinic coordinated a national effort with many surgeons who were available to go to help operating and caring for patients and when they got there they were confronted with the reality of the great need for supplies, water and electricity to resume operations. That was also the type of help requested from the local physicians in San Juan. They returned to the U.S. mainland and left the supplies they had with them…. The best way to help is to send medical and non-medical supplies so the local providers could do their work….. I just wanted to share the experience with you because it reinforced the benefit of your effort to send supplies. Thank you for the time and effort you have put in to this. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help, I am at your disposition.”
We are encouraging our stateside medical students to spearhead relief drives around the country to collect toiletries, water, and non-perishable food and snacks for doctors, nurses, students and their patients. We brought these emails to the attention of AmeriCares; they are now working hard to provide medical supplies.
As power is restored, life will get easier for them. But the damage to roads and infrastructure makes transporting goods on the ground difficult. These supplies must arrive by air through Mercedita International Airport, which has only one runway.
If you would like to purchase and send the supplies yourself, please send them to:
Dr. Kenira Thompson- President Ponce Research Institute
c/o Eduardo Lopez GHHS 388 Calle Dr Luis F Salas Urb Ind Reparada 2
Ponce, PR 00716-2347
If you would like to support Gold Humanism Honor Society chapters and all our humanistic efforts, including this one, please donate HERE.