SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — With hospitals crippled in the aftermath of, there is a rush to evacuate patients in dire need of treatment.
It’s life or death on the tarmac as a premature baby awaits evacuation to the mainland. The baby was born four months early, weighing only 1 pound, 3 ounces.
He desperately needs surgery to correct a severe eye condition that could cause blindness. He’s been on a ventilator since birth. Without the breathing tube, the baby will die.
“Those lungs are not mature enough to support the transfer of oxygen to his blood,” said Dr. Federico Maestre.
Maestre arranged with FEMA to medevac the 2-month-old out of San Juan.
“The baby has to improve and mature his lungs, mature his heart and mature his eyes,” Maestre said. “His eyes are not maturing. He has hemorrhages inside the eye, so those have to have surgery done in order to take that blood out, and that cannot be done here because we don’t have the infrastructure working right now.”
Time is crucial as the batteries for the ventilator have gone out. The baby is being manually bagged. So as he is being moved from the ambulance to the plane and onto a ventilator that’s working, this is the time that’s really important.
There’s no room for error during this high-tech handoff from the ambulance to the airplane. Next stop: Shreveport, Louisiana.
“It was so emotional to see that plane take that baby to a safe place,” Maestre said. “This baby will have a chance and the only chance was on that plane.”
For that baby and other patients in Puerto Rico, it’s been risky to rely on emergency power for critical equipment like ventilators.
Of the island’s 69 hospitals, 44 are now reportedly operational, but communication and power problems continue to cripple the medical system.
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