URMC medical team returns from Puerto Rico, urges more aid to the island

(Provided photo)

A team of nurses and one doctor from Rochester are now home from Puerto Rico, expressing their concerns for medical care in that region going forward.

This team from the University of Rochester Medical Center worked in a tent for two weeks without reliable power and generators that would often stop working.

After caring for 2,000 Puerto Ricans, this medical team is amazed by the resilience of the Puerto Rican people, but just as worried for them in the coming months.

“I knew about humility in Puerto Ricans. I'm Puerto Rican and I grew up in Puerto Rico,” Aida Santiago, a nurse who went on the trip, said. “But to see it so raw in the face of adversity will always stay with me.”

They treated patients who were in dire need of drinking water, let alone treatment for their injuries or illnesses from the hurricane and cleanup.

Many patients don't know where their own doctor is. Many doctors left when the hurricane hit.

“The humanitarian crisis,” Santiago continued. “Children being so sick, not having access to care was devastating.”

“We started to see the anxiety and depression of these people coming in and it was, it became very overwhelming,” Taina Ramos, another nurse, added. “Because we could only do so much for them by providing what we could.”

Lower back pain and other injuries from cleaning up debris are now common, as is asthma and pink eye.

Santiago gets teary thinking of how the people of Puerto Rico will survive.

“It broke my heart, that as Puerto Ricans and citizens of the United States of America, the island is in such detriment. I actually felt ashamed that this country and leadership has not done more for the people of Puerto Rico," said Santiago.

Now back in Rochester, the team is urging for more aid to the island.

“We have to remember they're humans,” Santiago said. “They're American citizens, and they deserve everything we did for the people of Houston, and the people of Florida.”

The team is working on getting more long term care out to the areas they worked. Nurses we spoke with today are working to see if they can change that to get more aid to the island.

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