ALAMOGORDO – Adelaide Mier, local dialysis nurse and clinic manager at Fresenius Kidney Care of Alamogordo, was one of 16 nurses from her company to join relief efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
Upon receiving a company email asking for Spanish-speaking nurses who could break away from their clinics for a two week assignment in Puerto Rico, Mier said she felt compelled to help.
“I felt it when Hurricane Katrina hit and when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I thought ‘Gosh, I really need to go help if I can’ and it turned out they didn’t need much help from us because they had enough help in the local areas,” Mier said. “But this one, it really struck me when I saw on the news the depth of the devastation. I’m experienced, I knew I could do a good job, I knew I have a good attitude and if nothing else, I can go over there and help them realize they aren’t alone.”
Around the end of October, Mier took the trip to Puerto Rico to work with residents living with kidney disease who needed access to dialysis.
“The clinic that I went to dealt with chronic treatment and those are patients that require treatment three times a week,” Mier said. “They’re pretty stable and they just have to come in three times a week to keep them in that stable mode.”
Mier said that many dialysis clinics were damaged in the hurricane and during the first 24 hours after the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, the clinic she was at treated all dialysis patients regardless of what clinic they belonged to.
“We all know that the dialysis treatment we provide is life-saving,” Mier said. “If the patients don’t receive treatment, not to say they’ll die tomorrow but eventually the body would deteriorate from not getting the blood cleaned. Everybody knew the importance of it and they just got it done. I was so proud to hear their stories.”
While Mier was in Puerto Rico, bridges and roads were still washed out making it impossible for many patients who live in the mountains to get to the clinic, so the company she works for was chartering helicopters to bring patients in.
“They picked up the patients, brought them to us, we’d run their treatments and get them taken care of and put them back in the helicopters with some food and took them back home,” Mier said. “It was the coolest thing ever.”
She said one of her hopes upon heading to Puerto Rico was that she’d be able to touch lives. One dialysis patient in particular, Gloria, gave Mier the opportunity to complete this task.
“As I was putting (Gloria) on treatment, she was telling us how she was so tired and just not feeling good because when the hurricane hit their front door had blown off. They didn’t have the means or the funds to be able to replace it, Mier said. “Right behind their house is a canal so they were having to deal with large scorpions, spiders and snakes that were coming into the home through the front door, especially at night. So her family was taking turns sleeping so they could sweep the critters out.”
With the help of her assigned security detail, Mier was able to get a door put back onto Gloria’s house.
“They were so grateful,” Mier said. “We noticed while we were there that they had mattresses on the floor in big plastic. I could smell the mold and I asked her and she said they were still a little wet but they’d put plastic on them. I didn’t like that. With the mold, what if the spores got into their lungs? So we went to Kmart there and got three roll away cot beds for them.”
Mier has one regret during her trip, it was a missed opportunity to take a video of a special moment between the dialysis patients in the clinic and nurses.
“I was helping one of the nurses, it was kind of a slow afternoon and this nurse had Marc Anthony’s ‘Vivir Mi Vida’ quietly playing on her cell phone,” Mier remembered. “She’s getting the site ready to put in the needles, I’m on the computer, and she starts to hum the song. The lyrics are, ‘Sometimes the rain comes and cleans us of our pain. Sometimes it’s just a drop and sometimes it just continues. But why cry, why talk about my pain, just forget about the suffering because that’s life.’ So she’s humming, another nurse starts mumbling the words, well then the patient knew the words so he started singing it. The next thing you know, the next patient starts humming it and the next nurse starts humming it and about halfway through the song, the entire clinic was singing this beautiful song. I just stood there in awe just watching them all.”
While Mier is now back in Alamogordo, she’s already been contacted about going back to Puerto Rico. She’s contemplating another round. As for her time in Puerto Rico, Mier said she feels honored to have gone and grateful to her employers for sending her.
“The people of Puerto Rico are strong, they are beautiful and they have such great faith and hope,” Mier said. “Everybody kept saying to each other ‘Puerto Rico se levanta,’ which means Puerto Rico will rise up, as opposed to saying ‘Bye, see you later’ on their way out the door. It was such a phrase that they would say to each other just to keep each other’s hopes up, and say we’re together in this and it’s going to be OK.”