It had been eighty years since the last major hurricane made landfall in Puerto Rico. When notice of Hurricane Maria came through, many on the island didn’t know what to expect, including Dr. Hector Santiago, a practicing optometrist and professor at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico.
“The main problem was the inability to know what was happening as there was no way to communicate,” said Dr. Santiago.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, communities began their journey to rebuild. The necessities came first with lines quickly forming to get things like cash and water.
“The incredible thing was that despite the tragedy, people were very patient. They would get in lines and wait six to seven hours at a time – we helped one another,” said Dr. Santiago.
Dr. Santiago’s home sustained some damage but after ensuring his family’s safety, his focus quickly shifted to his community. With the university helping students with items like water and transportation, the students were able to volunteer their time to help with outreach to community members in need.
Following the storm, there was a greater need for vision care services, from treating outbreaks of conjunctivitis to providing access to free eye glasses. The ability to see clearly becomes that much more important after a disaster – to fill out forms, drive, and navigate your way through darkness when all power is down.
VSP is grateful for doctors like Dr. Héctor Santiago, who reached out in a time of crisis to ensure his community had access to vital vision care services.
Hear directly from Dr. Santiago as he shared his experience with us: