A dialysis patient with diabetes is evacuated from Puerto Rico to Miami International Airport. Photo: Fundacion Stefano

By Carmen Sesin
15 October 2017

MIAMI (NBC News) – Maribel Casas was in the middle of a dialysis treatment when she got an unexpected text message from her sister saying she had to be at Isla Grande Airport, a small airfield in San Juan, Puerto Rico, by 2 p.m. Her relatives in Miami had managed to get her a seat on a humanitarian flight off the island.

Casas ended her treatment two hours early. "I told the nurse: 'I have to go. I'm leaving,'" she said.

Only after she landed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, did she learn that the private plane she had traveled on belongs to the rapper Pitbull, who lent his jet to evacuate cancer patients and others like Casas, who need constant treatment to live.

Days after she arrived in the Sunshine State, Methodist Dallas Medical Center called Casas to inform her that they had a match for her kidney transplant — and that she needed to be there the next morning.

"I had been on the waiting list for three years in multiple hospitals," she said from the hospital's intensive care unit just hours after surgery. She would have missed the transplant opportunity had it not been for Pitbull's gesture.

More than three weeks after Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, the situation remains bleak and dangerous for the infirm and the elderly. The island is running low on medicine. Many hospitals aren't fully operational, and with the electrical grid practically wiped out, many are still running with backup generators.

People with kidney failure that requires dialysis have had their treatments cut short because centers find it difficult to replenish their generators with diesel. [more]

Puerto Rico in Crisis: A Race Against Time to Evacuate the Infirm

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