“It was hard to leave. It was really hard to leave,” explained Wendy Allen-Thompson, a nurse with University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).

Over the course of 16 days, 25 URMC doctors and nurses worked out of a tent, and assisted nearly 2,000 patients. Many people in Puerto Rico left with nothing — no medications, their doctors — gone.

“I was writing scripts and quite a bit of refills even though I don’t know if I was supposed to do that. But in my head I thought, at least they have their medications,” said Aida Santiago, a nurse practitioner. 

Taina Ramos, another nurse, explained one of the biggest challenges was assisting nearly 150 dehydrated patients — daily.

“How do you tell people, drink more, when the drinking water is what got them into the clinic in the first place? Because the water they drink is contaminated,” Ramos explained. 

The UR medical providers had to get creative. The proper resources to even give blood were not available. 

“We were doing things in an outpatient clinic that we would never do here in the States in an outpatient clinic. Those patients would have gone to the emergency room,” said Luis Rosario-McCabe, D.N.P., R.N., who was also on the trip.

Regardless of the unreliable electricity and minimal supplies, Allen-Thompson says the Puerto Rican patients were so grateful.

“There was never a complaint. I got so many hugs and so many thank yous,” said Thompson.

The URMC staff now looks back on their experiences as a medical mission that became so much more than just a job.

“But to see it so raw in the face of adversity will always stay with me,” said Ramos. 

These doctors and nurses saw about 150 patients a day. They say they tried to help as much as they could, but there’s still along way to go. Many agreed they would go back to Puerto Rico and help in a heart beat. 

If you’re interested in helping those in Puerto Rico, they are still in need of donations including cases of water, batteries, and flashlights. No food please.

All items must be unopened and unused. Everything can be dropped off at IBERO on East Main Street in Rochester.