Hoosiers Helping Puerto Rico: Local surgeon and hospital donate supplies and time to relief effort

RICHMOND, Ind. – It’s been nearly two weeks Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, directly or indirectly killing 18 people and leaving millions stranded without power.

President Donald Trump visited today for the first time to check in on the relief efforts, which some Puerto Ricans say has been so slow it’s frustrating because people are dying.

“It’s sad,” said Dr. Sara Diaz-Valentin, a Puerto Rico-born surgeon who lives in Indianapolis. “These are American citizens that are suffering. It’s going to get better and we know that, but in the meantime, I mean, there’s been lives that have been lost because of that.”

With most of the island still without power, simple things like refrigerating insulin have become difficult. Delays in shipments of medicine mean some clinics and hospitals have no antibiotics or even bandages.

Some of Diaz’ former colleagues at the hospital where she did residency, can’t even get into work to prescribe those medicines.

“You just feel like you have your hands tied,” said Diaz. “You can’t do much. They don’t have gas to get to the hospitals.”

Diaz says she and others decided to figure out how to get basic supplies and help to doctors who need it.

“It affects me for sure, it’s personal,” said Diaz. “But, I felt that instead of just lamenting or complaining that help is not getting in, it was easier to just say, ‘What can I do?’”

Dr. Diaz made some calls, first to the doctors on the island.

“We’re not going through any agency,” said Dr. Diaz. “We’re literally picking up the phone and finding out, ‘What do you need? Do you need albuterol? Do you need antibiotics? Do you need suture?’”

Then she called her employer, Reid Health in Richmond, to see what they could donate. She saw it all for the first time today.

In just a few days, Diaz and several other Puerto Rican doctors living on the mainland, will be headed to Puerto Rico to personally deliver everything they’ve each collected and money they’ve raised.

Then she’ll help cover shifts for exhausted doctors, including some who no longer have homes to even rest in. Until things improve significantly… she hopes to give them a break… and life-saving resources.

“Obviously this is a small portion of what they’re receiving, but I know it will make a difference for the few people that receive it,” said Dr. Diaz.

And she wants to remind others not to forget about the American island in need.

“You know I don’t want to cry,” said Diaz. “I want to inspire other people to help.”

Invoke Yoga Studio, where Diaz is a member, has already answered the call. They hosted a class Sunday with 100 percent of proceeds going to help Diaz purchase mosquito nets and other medical supplies needed.

 

HOW TO HELP:

Invoke is continuing to collect donations until the morning of Thursday, October 5 at the studio location at 970 Fort Wayne Ave in Indianapolis.

Diaz already has a plan to get the donations she has so far to the country, but is looking for more help as she continues collecting.

She’s also looking for anyone with access or connections to ship things from PR from the Midwest, especially those with private planes. If you can help in any way by donating, you can email her at puertoricoriseup@yahoo.com.

Supplies Needed:
• Battery Operated Fans
• Flashlights
• Batteries (C and D)
• Solar Cell Phone Charger
• Battery/Crank/Solar Powered Radio
• Nonperishable food (Granola Bars, Dry cereal, nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter)
• Diapers – Baby & Adults (all sizes including)
• Baby Wipes
• Baby Formula
• Female Pads and Tampons
• Articles for First Aid (Ex. Band Aids, Bandages, Gloves, Topical Antibiotics, Gauzes, Alcohol Wipes, Masks, Topical Steroid Cream, Syringes and Needles)
• Unopened Medications for adults and children (Ex: Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Imodium, Antacids)
• Insect Repellent and mosquito nets
• Toiletries (soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand sanitizer)
• Tents
• Toilet Paper
• Blankets
• Can Opener
• Shipping Boxes and Tape
• Clorox Wipes

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