PUERTO RICO - Hurricane Maria's Aftermath, by Jorge L. Rodríguez, President & CEO, PACIV Foundation, Inc. Pledged $1,000,000.00. We are asking the private sector to Match My Pledge with $150,000 and Send a Message to the World!
On October 7th, (Mari'as Day 18), a group of friends set out to perform a reconnaissance trip to the mountainous towns of Puerto Rico to: (a) map the routes for the delivery of supplies could be done swiftly, (b) obtain from mayors and hospitals what were their immediate needs, (c) take the chance to deliver supplies. Myself and another YPOers where about to receive 50 private planes with loads from Continental USA via the Cajun Relief group.
We loaded up our trucks, four 4x4’s and one helicopter. The trip included the towns of Lares, San Sebastian, Las Marias and Maricao. The trip was going well, we went to Lares, met with the mayor, met with the hospital's doctor, obtained a list of medicines needed, obtained immediate needs from the mayor and we delivered our goods in their collection center.
The Lares police then escorted us to our next town, San Sebastian. After going through roads totally devastated, we made it to San Sebastian. We met the mayor and also went to the hospital. The doctor who came with us met with the doctors there and collected a list of the medicines and medical equipment they needed. So far, we were 2 for 2.
As we were leaving San Sebastian in a convoy, also led by San Sebastian police to take us to Las Marias, we were suddenly stopped and asked to pull aside. Two cars came up, the vice-mayor of San Sebastian and Frances with two little kids on her car, Gabriel and Diego. As we talked to the vice-mayor and the mother, they told their story. Frances' son Diego, an 8-year-old kid, suffers from a rare life-threatening disease called “Propionic Acidemia”, Diego is the ONLY kid in Puerto Rico with such a condition.
Frances and the vice-mayor told us that Diego was on the last dosage of his medication that night, Propimex-1, and that by tomorrow morning, after his first dosage of the day (three times a day) he will run out of the medication and would probably die. Frances told us that she was this past Thursday in Centro Medico asking for the medication, however, they told her they ran out of it. Frances told us they did not have the medication in Puerto Rico, therefore, Diego needed to be flown out immediately.
Our chopper had already left for Las Marias, we tried contacting it via satellite phone and we were not successful. The weather was really, really bad, lots of rain and dark clouds. The plan was set in motion, the convoy would go escorted by the police to Las Marias. Frances would go with the vice-mayor to her house, collect all her belongings and be ready to leave Puerto Rico with both kids that same day.
We got to Las Marias, found the chopper and Antoine (the owner, pilot and friend), explained the situation and we got his satellite phone to see if we could find the medication in San Juan. We used all our contacts and finally we found two cases of the medication. The chopper left for San Sebastian, picked up Frances, Diego and Gabriel and left for San Juan. They dropped them at the Pediatric Hospital in Centro Medico and Diego was administered his dosage.
I stayed behind with the convoy and we got back at 12 midnight. Next day, Sunday, I headed to the emergency room to see Frances, Diego and Gabriel. He was stable but, understandably so, Frances wanted to leave for the continental U.S. as soon as possible. She had family in Orlando and if we got her there, Diego would be safe and all will start going back to a “new normal”.
That Sunday morning, I started the search for support to get them into a private plane from San Juan to Miami and then I could have them take a commercial flight from Miami to Orlando. Through Facebook (FB) and the friend of a friend of a friend, we could find a private flight to Miami. We got a friend to pick them up at the private airport there and take them to the Miami International Airport to then go from Miami to Orlando. By 9:30 pm, Frances, Gabriel and Diego were in Orlando already with family members – to start a new life- since Frances and the kids had never been there.
Throughout this experience and ordeal, with Diego, a kid with such a unique disease and the only patient in Puerto Rico with it, I decided that the PACIV Foundation and all our resources and volunteering work had to change focus. Instead of being setting up server rooms, installing power generators, delivering supplies, etc. we needed to focus on saving lives.
Moreover, this is a way to speak loud and clear that this should have not been happening in the first place. This is happening daily. Without the private sector's intervention, people will keep dying.