Blog Archive

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Puerto Rico Hoy

I've been so impressed with the efforts of Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA) to help our American community in Puerto Rico, that I wanted to provide their update on what's happening with their relief efforts. We just made a donation, and I hope that you will too! People are still affected by the devastation of Hurricane Marie.

Disaster Relief Efforts

 by Hemophilia Federation of America

Summary of Assistance Provided

We remain in contact with families affected by natural disasters. Requests from families in California, Texas, and Florida have dwindled, but we continue to provide regular assistance to families in Puerto Rico who are still coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
As of January 31, 2018, Helping Hands (for “Together We Care”) has processed 80 applications for disaster relief. Total relief funds distributed to date are $19,708.53. Moving into February, there are 13 pending applications in the works with needs identified at approximately $26,000 and others to follow up on.
Primary types of assistance distributed includes groceries, batteries, clothing, toiletries, cash assistance for household bills, aqua tablets, water, first aid items, cold packs, and other basic needs and rebuild supplies.

Together We Care: Next Steps

The Helping Hands team and volunteers continue to support requests for short-term immediate support and long-term needs such as home repairs, furniture, etc.
Our team of social workers/counselors organized an extended outreach plan in late January 2018 to reach out to families identified by the HTC that have not yet been served in our assistance records. Cell phone service seems to be largely up and running now so the current focus is via phone contact vs. home visits. Outreach includes an assessment of short and long-term needs and evaluating if assistance should be provided to the family.
With news reports of FEMA ending aid to Puerto Rico and basic services still unavailable, recovery has been a slow journey for many Puerto Ricans. January 31, 2018 new reports indicate over 500,000 households are still without power on the island, particularly in rural and mountain areas. We have met with community families as recently as the last few weeks who still do not have running water.
In our visits in recent weeks we have seen grocery stores, gas stations, etc. largely be fully operational. While a great deal of cleanup remains, roads are more and more accessible.  The added challenge we see is that the months of shut-down resulted in drastic increase of additional unemployment resulting in no opportunity for income which only adds to the time it will take to get families back on their feet.
Without question, the work of Together We Care is vital in continuing to support these families. We can’t forget our Puerto Rican Americans with bleeding disorders once FEMA’s aid ends.

Additional Note from Kimberly Haugstad:

I had the opportunity to visit Puerto Rico in January with Martha Boria Negron.  It was a tremendous experience and an opportunity to see the hurricane impact first hand as well as connect with some of our community in need. 

We traveled extensively through the island during our stay.  Without a doubt, families are still struggling and only slowing getting back to their normal.  We provided families with immediate assistance and made follow-up plans for further support.

A few stories from many experiences are below. These families can’t help but inspire our desire to do more, provide education and find ways to connect the community on the island together, and to the US mainland.

Way up in the mountains we met Emanuel, a young man with severe hemophilia. His home was destroyed in the storm and he and his father were trapped inside for 2 days. He had a bleed after the hurricane which necessitated a difficult trip to the ER in San Juan. They are in a rented apartment now. He was just recently able to return to work.  Emanuel and his mom both expressed a wish to learn more about different therapies and wished they had the chance to meet other families living with bleeding disorders.

We met Devon whose mom works and his grandmother takes care of him and his sister during the day.  Devon is 6 and very shy. His grandmother knows he has severe hemophilia but not sure what type. We saw a clear opportunity for family education here.

Carlos lives with his mom and grandmother. He is in his late 20’s but as a teen, experienced a head bleed that resulted in permanent complications. Carlos took us on a tour of his home and shared where trees had come through his bedroom roof during the storm while he was lying in bed. They have a partial repair but needed help to get it finished. His mom was eager to connect and wishes to meet other families. She feels very isolated right now. 

We met Elizer, a man in his 20’s with 3% FVII, a wife and baby boy.  After the storm he went to work for FEMA, it paid more than his regular job. This resulted in his falling off a roof and fracturing a vertebra. It took 8 hours in the ER to get factor. We met him 6 days post-accident. In obvious pain, he hadn’t received factor since the first ER dose.  No adult hematologist had consulted, no plan for additional factor and surgery was under discussion. 

Finally, I must commend the efforts of the pediatric HTC in Puerto Rico. We spent an afternoon visiting and the HTC was very welcoming of our efforts. We walked through an evaluation of our mutual lists of families, identifying those who neither had yet heard from for future follow-up. (They also promised to check on Elizer, they remembered him as a child at their center.) The partnership and giving of time and heart was a gift. We are thankful.


About Together We Care: Disaster Relief Efforts

The bleeding disorders community has a long history of rallying around our families in need. In 2017, the US faced an unprecedented number of natural disasters. National bleeding disorders organizations such as Hemophilia Federation of America, the National Hemophilia Foundation, the Hemophilia Alliance, Hemophilia Alliance Foundation, LA Kelley Communications, the national network of hemophilia treatment centers and others have partnered to create the “Together We Care” disaster relief assistance fund. Families helped have been gracious and thankful for the caring and support.


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