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Treasure Coast doctors, nurses, pharmacists and paramedics help treat sick and injured in the Bahamas

Posted: 11:39 PM, Sep 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-18 17:37:55-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- A local team comprised of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and paramedics on the Treasure Coast answered the call to help as many people as they could who are living in some of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.

In two trips spanning a total of seven days, Dr. Michael Ferraro with Cleveland Clinic Martin Health said the team, including physicians and nurses from Cleveland Clinic Martin Health and Martin County Fire Rescue Paramedics, responded to as many of the ever-changing needs as they could.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Bahamas After Dorian

Dr. Ferraro said he knew taking action quickly was critical to help Bahamians struggling after the storm.

“I put a text out and these guys jumped all over it,” Dr. Ferraro said.

They headed right into some of the hardest hit communities on a donated helicopter. Once on the ground, they used a damaged but drivable Bahamian car to reach people who could not leave their locations.

“We really did a lot of good in Marsh Harbor and Freeport. We bounced all around there and transported over 100 patients between the two missions,” Dr. Ferraro said.

They treated medical issues directly related to the storm and its aftermath.

“They were coming up with these different rashes, most likely due to not having clean water to wash themselves with,” said Adriane Mijardes, Firefighter Paramedic for Martin County Fire Rescue.

Other patients had previous health issues or needs made worse by the tough conditions.

Chris Wisniewski, Firefighter Paramedic with Martin County Fire Rescue, described helping a woman who recently had a heart attack.

“We flew her back to Florida and the next morning she got two stents and she’s alive today because of it,” Wisniewski explained.

They helped a stroke victim get much needed treatment.

They helped children experiencing Gastrointestinal issues.

“Pregnancy patients, people who were bleeding in pregnancy, people who were on dialysis, people who had run out of medications,” Dr. Ferraro explained.

Meanwhile, they navigated through destruction and debris to find as many people needing help as possible.

“We found nursing homes we didn’t know were nursing homes. You’re driving through communities where the houses are devastated, but you see a clothes line out. That was a red flag. Why is a clothes line out? There’s people still living there,” Wisniewski said.

“We definitely made a difference on a lot of patients. We definitely touched a lot of lives,” Wisniewski said.

Pharmacist Marcie Ferraro also focused on the need to bring much needed medications to the island.

“No one was getting their medications in a timely fashion,” Dr. Ferraro explained. “Getting medications to the islands is going to be important ongoing. When I left they had about a month [left], so in three weeks they’re going to be getting close and we’re going to have to address that need again,” Marcie Ferraro said.

But the desperation the team witnessed was not only through sickness or injury. Dr. Ferraro said he will not forget a moment in Fox Town.

“The members of that community were all handing me pieces of paper with their loved ones' phone numbers on them saying' take these and tell them we’re alive'. Not 'take this and tell them I need. Take this and tell them I’m alive’,” Dr. Ferraro said.

Martin County Firefighter Paramedic Jordan Feck said they also saw a lot of strength in the Bahamian people still on the island.

“They reluctantly accept the help but they are so grateful when we provide it when we show up,” Feck said.

The team hopes to make another trip back to the Bahamas within the next month.