EDINA, Minn. —- Dr. Miguel Fiol might be back at his home in Edina, but his heart is still in his native Puerto Rico.
The neurologist and University of Minnesota faculty member was vacationing in San Juan, where he has an apartment of his own. Even though he had the choice of flying back to the Twin Cities, he decided to ride out Hurricane Maria with family members so that he could be a part of the recovery efforts.
“It was like a bomb went off in Puerto Rico. That was my impression,” said Dr. Fiol, describing the devastation.
Dr. Fiol volunteered at an emergency shelter in San Juan’s convention center, which housed hundreds of evacuees.
“You constantly saw people with stress reactions, anxiety attacks. diabetes that was out of control, people with wounds that were not healing. There were no antibiotics. We had no antibiotics to give them,” said Dr. Fiol.
Because the island’s electric grid was practically destroyed, critical medical equipment like ventilators were not working.
Dr. Fiol is concerned that Puerto Rico is on the brink of a medical crisis.
Because there is a shortage of clean water and areas filled with standing water, Dr. Fiol fears that millions could be vulnerable to waterborne diseases.
“My concern is an epidemic because there’s just no resources,” said Dr. Fiol. “The health infrastructure is stretched to the limit.”
For now, Dr. Fiol is teaming up with Puerto Rican medical students at the University of Minnesota to raise awareness, collect donations and ask Minnesota companies to donate much-needed drugs and medical equipment.
“I think the emphasis right now as Puerto Ricans is to restore [Puerto Rico] and to provide the help that people need to live. It’s a live or die situation,” said Dr. Fiol.
If you wish to donate, Dr. Fiol encourages Minnesotans donate to organizations on the ground like United For Puerto Rico.
In addition, the St. Paul Foundation has set up a fund named El Fondo Boricua that aims to assist victims of Hurricane Maria.