After driving through the streets with rubble, no traffic lights, downed trees and power lines, and being aware that electricity remains an elusive necessity throughout the island, I boarded my plane to leave Puerto Rico.
Although I was there for only 3 days, I had an amazing opportunity to view our Juncos plant (which is like a bustling city), see many Medtronic employees, and to work in a remote clinic set up after the hurricane – supported in part by Medtronic.
I was most impressed with the resilience I witnessed. I heard stories of doors blowing off, of houses submerged and destroyed, of living without showers, electricity, internet and phone connections, and of children missing school. I also heard of people helping neighbors and strangers, of the importance of family, and of overcoming the challenges of living without. They share a dream of a rebuilt, even better Puerto Rico.
Our employees shared that coming into the plant the first few days after Maria was like going to Disneyland; a place with cool air, amenities, and magic – where dreams could once again come true. Our employees are immensely thankful to Medtronic for helping bring that magic back into their lives by giving them generators, fuel, and water for their homes, and by providing basic necessities at work: free food, child care, medical care, access to washers and dryers, financial services, access to employee assistance programs that will guide them in rebuilding their homes. Medtronic enabled them to hope again.
Our employees in Juncos are all so proud that they are back at work making pumps, reservoirs, and sensors, and they know how much they are needed by all of us – and by our patients.
I heard many stories from our employees of running out of medicine, of not being able to find their doctors, and of long lines to get basic supplies – particularly at pharmacies. Many needed strips, insulin, and a way to keep it cool – and I was so excited to have been able to bring them those supplies (donated in part by Insulin for Life, USA). We will keep sending these supplies. In the clinic, I saw patients with conjunctivitis, skin infections, diarrhea – all acquired from contaminated water – and I was able to bring antibiotics, ointments and treatments to them as well (thanks to Medtronic). People came in with sky-high blood pressure and glucose levels, insomnia, pain – from putting their houses back together – and anxiety. I got to see babies and toddlers who had missed their regular appointments and whose parents just needed reassurance. We had to send a few people by ambulance to the hospital, but otherwise the clinic – a ragtag group of volunteer doctors, including one doctor from Eureka who was my student at USC – nurses and pharmacists, who managed to see patients and administer care to those who had just been through the unimaginable.
As I reflect on my three days in Puerto Rico, I am honored to be a part of the Medtronic family; for all that Medtronic has done and continues to do, and because the employees I met at Juncos simply make me proud to call them my co-workers.
Chief Medical Officer