2017-11-01 / Front Page

Local nurse helps hurricane victims in Puerto Rico

by Kate Evans


Power lines were down all across the main island of Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria causing a 100% loss of electricity to island residents. Power lines were down all across the main island of Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria causing a 100% loss of electricity to island residents. Berkeley Springs resident and nurse Dylan Trip was one member of a four-person Eastern Panhandle American Red Cross team of first responders that went to Puerto Rico for three weeks to assess the health situation and help Hurricane victims. Trip graduated from Shepherd University’s nursing program in May and is a 2012 Berkeley Springs High School graduate.

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on September 20 when it made landfall as a Category 4 Hurricane. The U.S. territory is still struggling to recover and restore services to its residents six weeks later.

Homes and businesses were destroyed and damaged by nearly 150 mile per hour winds, heavy rains, flooding, mudslides and landslides. Millions lost electricity along with cell phone and Internet service. Downed power lines and telephone lines were a common sight all over Puerto Rico, Trip said in a phone interview with The Morgan Messenger.


Dylan Trip, a Berkeley Springs resident and nurse, holds a baby from a family of patients he evaluated in Puerto Rico. Dylan Trip, a Berkeley Springs resident and nurse, holds a baby from a family of patients he evaluated in Puerto Rico. Trip signed on as an American Red Cross volunteer to work in Texas or Florida after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma struck. He was completing his Red Cross training when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and was asked to go there instead.

Trip flew to a staging area in Atlanta, Georgia on September 26 and two nights later his team left for Puerto Rico. Once they arrived in Puerto Rico, they assessed community, family and individual health situations and needs and cared for victims.

Trip said his team was stationed in the capital city of San Juan the whole time, but they did house calls across the entire island to check on people whose family members hadn’t heard from them and who had serious medical conditions.


The force of Hurricane Maria’s winds toppled this huge tree in a plaza in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a major tourist attraction with museums and historical places. The force of Hurricane Maria’s winds toppled this huge tree in a plaza in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a major tourist attraction with museums and historical places. Responders could drive coast to coast in around four hours in any direction so they could visit a community and return to their shelter on the same day. Cities and towns they traveled to included Aquada, Isabela, Rincón, Old San Juan and Jayuya.

Patients

Trip said they evaluated patients and families with diabetes, high blood pressure, cerebral palsy, tracheostomies and renal failure along with the elderly and amputees. Some needed insulin or other medications, supplies or generators, while others needed transportation to dialysis. His team arranged transportation with the Army National Guard and connected people to local resources for their needs.


Fallen trees and limbs were everywhere in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria’s September 20 landfall. photos by Dylan Trip Fallen trees and limbs were everywhere in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria’s September 20 landfall. photos by Dylan Trip One woman was developing pneumonia and his team arranged hospital transportation for her through the police station. A father had a three-year old with a tracheostomy and no electricity for the suction device and they got him a generator, he said.

Trip said it was very rewarding to be able to report back to families that their loved ones were okay when they found them.

Trip said conditions in Puerto Rico were bad everywhere, but things were a little better in the cities. In Old San Juan, a beautiful coastal tourist area, businesses looked like abandoned buildings, but were new. A bank had its glass windows blown out and a coffee shop beside it was untouched. One house might be washed away while the home next to it was perfectly fine, he noted.


A beautiful ocean view from Isabela, Puerto Rico is unscathed by Hurricane Maria’s destruction. A beautiful ocean view from Isabela, Puerto Rico is unscathed by Hurricane Maria’s destruction. Many roads were impassable and washed out by rains, mudslides and landslides, especially in rural areas. In some mountainous areas, a one-lane road was the only way in and their team was the first responders to make it there, even before FEMA, Trip said. They were bombarded with requests for help when they arrived. There was a huge need for services everywhere they went.

He said the hurricane blew the leaves from the trees and stripped off their bark. Woods were brown and bare with little green anywhere.

Distributed supplies

Trip said his team distributed food, water, medications, diapers, baby formula, tarps for roofs and tents whatever was needed in the communities they visited. They tried to give six to eight bottles of water to each person, but many took only one or two bottles so there would be more water for others, which was very moving.

The people in the mountains were very resourceful and used coconuts packed with charcoal to filter out contaminants from rainwater they collected around aqueducts, Trip said.

Responders’ shelter

It was very hot in Puerto Rico-the first week Trip was there temperatures were in the upper 90’s and over 100 degrees. There was no air conditioning in the first Baptist Church shelter that responders stayed at that week, but they kept the doors open. Trip said they got a generator and fans after a couple days and had running water. He and several guys slept on the floor for a few days until they got cots. The second Baptist Church that housed them had air conditioning and running water.

Trip knew his team could go back to their homes and families when their stay was over, but said he kept thinking about the Puerto Rican people that couldn’t go back home or find their families. Local responders had lost both homes and families and were still out working with Red Cross responders helping others.

“It was very humbling and eye-opening,” Trip said of his experience.

Great people & culture

Trip said that all the local people in Puerto Rico were so fantastic, appreciative and happy to have someone to talk to and listen to them even though his Spanish is broken.

Residents were out with chainsaws, saws, rakes and brooms and working very hard to get things cleaned up after the hurricane, he said. Puerto Ricans have so much pride in and love for their country.

Trip said that the roads, power and cell phone service came together in a short time in San Juan. The country is getting back on its feet though it will take a while.

Before his team left Puerto Rico, restaurants and stores were reopening in San Juan and elsewhere on the island, Trip said. People were out having a beer, listening to music and hoping that life would soon get back to normal.

“It’s a proud, strong and lovely culture. I’d love to go back,” Trip said of Puerto Rico.

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