Maria set off months of pain, death in Puerto Rico
Ramona Gonzalez did not drown when Hurricane Maria drenched Puerto Rico. She did not die in the tempest, or from destruction wrought by the storm’s 154 mph (248 kph) winds.
Instead, this disabled, 59-yearold woman died a month later, from sepsis - caused, says her family, by an untreated bedsore.
In all, the storm and its aftermath took the lives of unfortunates like Gonzalez and thousands of others, many of whom could have been saved with standard medical treatment. This was a slow-motion, months-long disaster that kept Puerto Ricans from getting the care they needed for treatable ailments, even as President Donald Trump lauded his administration’s response.
A year after Maria roared across the Caribbean, reporters for The Associated Press, the news site Quartz and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism have put together the In this Sept. 28, 2017, photo, the rubble of homes are scattered in the aftermath of hurricane Maria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, one week after the storm hit. Puerto Rico’s governor said one year after the storm that his administration has adopted new measures to better prepare for a disaster like Maria although he warned of limitations given the U.S. territory’s economic crisis.
most detailed portrait yet of the agonizing final days of victims of the storm, interviewing 204 families of the dead and reviewing accounts of 283 more to tell the stories of heretofore anonymous victims.
Trump cast doubt on the storm’s widely accepted death toll Thursday, tweeting that “3000
people did not die” when Maria hit after a near-miss by Hurricane Irma in September, 2017. He said the death count had been inflated “by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible,” by adding unrelated deaths to the toll from causes like old age.
But the joint investigation reflects how Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable fell victim to dire conditions created by the storms.
Disabled and elderly people were discharged from overwhelmed hospitals with bedsores that led to fatal infections. Medical oxygen ran out. People caught lung infections in sweltering private nursing homes and state facilities. Kidney patients got abbreviated treatments from dialysis centres that lacked generator fuel and fresh water, despite pleas for federal and local officials to treat them as a higher priority, according to patient advocates.
There was Ernesto Curiel, a diabetic who died of a heart attack after weeks of walking 10 flights twice a day to fetch insulin from his building’s only working refrigerator. Alejandro Gonzalez Vazquez, 47 - unable to obtain his anti-psychotic medication, he committed suicide instead of boarding his flight back to the U.S. mainland. Juana Castro Rivera, 52, dead of leptospirosis, a disease transmitted by contaminated water. After several visits to a community clinic, she was diagnosed - too late - by a hospital in a neighbouring municipality.