Two of the hospital's 3 generators are working
The temperature inside is 85 degrees
Ashford Presbyterian is doing the best they can with what they have. Which, right now, is more than a lot of places in Puerto Rico.
The San Juan hospital served as a safe haven for patients and staff during the week of Hurricane Maria. Staff worked around the clock to ensure that each of the 120 patients was taken care of as the Category 5 storm wreaked havoc outside.
In addition to their local patients, the hospital received 13 evacuees from St. Thomas. Some were in critical condition and one went into labor six weeks early.
103-year-old Diosa Aldarondo has been at the hospital for nearly two months. Her daughter, Jacqueline Aldarondo, has stayed by her side through two hurricanes. “I saw Irma come, and now this one,” she said. “I’m tired, I’m really tired.”
Two of the hospital’s three backup generators are working, leaving the temperature inside the building lingering at an uncomfortable 85 degrees. Aldarondo uses ice to cool her mother down.
The elder Aldarondo lived through hurricane Felipe in 1928 – the only recorded Category 5 hurricane to hit the island. She used to tell her daughter stories about it when she was a child, which Aldarondo said helped her prepare for this experience.
Aldarondo said her biggest concern is that her mother isn’t getting enough fresh water and that there isn’t enough for all of the patients. “The process has been slow and painful,” she said.
The entire island is largely without power and water. “The system has been basically destroyed,” Ricardo Ramos, the CEO of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority told CNN. The power might be out for four to six months, Ramos said. Hospitals and water systems will be prioritized for power restoration.
Margo Silva, the hospital’s planning manager, said they were double staffed with high level managers, nursing technicians and physicians. “Management and administrators slept in the hospital during the storm,” Silva said, “we definitely lost power during the hurricane but our generators kicked in.”
Ashford Presbyterian is located in a hurricane corridor and the staff is used to weathering storms. Silva assures that despite Aldarondo’s concerns, patients are not running out of water and her staff is prepared to handle ongoing service. “People are nervous and anxious, I am too,” she said, “it is very stressful but we can’t attend every request immediately. It’s very difficult to please every patient.”
Ana Rivera, another patient, was very happy with the level of attention she received from hospital workers. “There was a lot of attention from the staff. Treating us well with a lot of supervision. The moment the hurricane hit everyone was around,” she said.
“It was a difficult experience but there was camaraderie between everyone that focused on the patients – all hands on deck,” nursing director Itza Soto said. “The worst of it was the damage outside.”
According to San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, 200 crews are working on clearing debris and making repairs, but it’s difficult for them to get around. Aid groups such as FEMA are unable to communicate with each other due to cell service being down, and Mayor Yulín Cruz is concerned that the island’s manpower may not be enough.
Like Silva, Yulín Cruz hopes Puerto Ricans will be patient. “The landscape is disastrous and is a devastation like I have never seen before,” she said, “which has brought out the solidarity spirit that we had forgotten.”
“If we’re going to rebuild and reconstruct we ought to do it with appropriate priorities… we’re going to make it and push on.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated throughout to reflect the full last name of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
CNN’s Nick Valencia and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.