There was one day during the first two months of running missions that stood out more than most. On this day everything came together to produce an outstanding result, a life was saved and a family got a safe place to live.
We were working near the Guaynabo region when we were informed of a family who had a member with late-stage cancer who had not received medical attention since the storm hit. The family member was wheelchair-bound and had immense difficulty communicating due to various medical issues. The initial evaluation by our RN, Lisa Lambert, led to our recommending that he receive immediate medical treatment at the hospital as his breathing and oxygen saturation was going downhill quickly. The logistical problems of doing so, explained to us by municipal officials, were overcome when it was explained that he would not survive the night if left untreated. The head official then made a few phone calls, tracked down the patient’s sister who authorized summoning an ambulance to take him to the hospital. As a team we collectively agreed to put a hold on our current mission (putting tarps on roofs) and put all of our efforts towards helping this family. I was proud that our nurse firmly advocated of behalf of someone who could not do so himself. A life was saved that day.
The Tarping Team is made up of mission volunteers as well as local volunteers gathered by local the municipality. In addition, we coordinated with the National Guard to provide support of volunteers and be on hand in case of accidents. We headed to the first of 20 homes needing protection from the weather. The temperature was in the mid-90’s with humidity rates in the same range—it was brutal!
Upon arrival, we found a three story, high-pitched roof presenting an extreme risk of injury to our volunteers. Thankfully, safety training had been previously provided, which allowed the volunteers to work efficiently and safely. The team set up anchors on both sides of the house using climbing harnesses and ropes with specialized safety gear, enabling the volunteers to work hands-free with no chance of a catastrophic accident.
It was only by working together that we were able to save a life, increase the community’s morale, and—most importantly—offer hope and solace to this barrio that they have not been abandoned. Our medical staff provided much needed information on mold management and diabetes control, and attended to the life-and-death needs of the patient along with the assistance of the National Guard and municipality officials. Concurrently, the rest of the Guardsmen passed out relief supplies to community members while the volunteer brigade provided shelter coverings to 20 homes. Everything came together in that moment and we got so much good accomplished all at once.