Brown water stains the asphalt, giving it the appearance of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. Fallen power lines lay strewn across puddles that resemble spilled chocolate milk. Those trees that have not been ripped up by their roots, only to become entangled with unraveled electric lines on the rain-soaked ground, stand bare, robbed of all their foliage.All can be seen in a photograph taken of Toa Alta, a city that stands just west of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. The image was captured by Associated Press photojournalist Ricardo Arduengo on September 24, four days after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm packing sustained winds of 155 mph, made landfall on the island, essentially leaving its population of 3.4 million in darkness.
Today, more than a month after the storm, not much has changed in Toa Alta. Power has not been restored to most of the island and fallen trees still block many roads.
What has changed—and at an alarming rate—is the number of people and patients who are now at risk due to a lack of medical supplies, treatment facilities and, in some places, doctors.
On October 4, a hospital in Humacao, which sits along Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, was forced to evacuate 29 patients—including seven in intensive care and a few on the operating table—when the generator powering the facility broke down.
Kenneth Kaushansky, Richard Scriven and Rolando Valenzuela, all doctors associated with Stony Brook University Hospital and who work interchangeably with Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, have been watching events unfold in Puerto Rico, ultimately deciding to assemble a team of nearly two dozen doctors, nurses, physicians and paramedics, and offer their medical support on the front lines of the hurricane-ravished island.
“The obvious answer is to help with materials and personnel,” said Dr. Kaushansky, dean of Stony Brook’s School of Medicine and senior vice president of health sciences,
Working in cooperation with the Greater New York Hospital Association, Dr. Kaushansky, Dr. Scriven, a Stony Brook pediatric surgeon, and Dr. Valenzuela, who works in emergency medicine, and 20 of their associates arrived in Puerto Rico this Tuesday, October 24, to provide medical aid to those in need. Crew members are expected to provide medical aid to those Puerto Ricans primarily suffering from bacterial infections, gastrointestinal issues and rashes, as well as chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, for the next two weeks.
“The challenge now is to…