A Puerto Rico couple has made it to Boston in the wake of Hurricane Maria to save their baby’s life.
The couple is staying with an American family in Brookline as they await appointments for their daughter at Children’s Hospital.
Alianette Andino and Kelvin Garcia live in Maunabo, on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico. It’s normally an hour-and-a-half drive to San Juan.
They have a 14-month-old daughter, Amaia.
Five months into the pregnancy, doctors told Andino that her daughter would not be born alive. But she was born, 26 weeks into her mother’s pregnancy.
She has a heart condition, left ventricular dysplasia. At the age of 2 months, she had emergency open-heart surgery. Amaia has a surgically implanted feeding tube.
She spent the first eight months of her life in a San Juan hospital. Since then, it’s been back-and-forth to the hospital, until last month.
“The hurricane came,” Garcia says in Spanish.
It hit where they live hard. There was no power, no phone service, no water.
Amaia became dehydrated and infected. She was hospitalized for 12 days. When the hospital was ready to release her, Garcia, in the hospital with his daughter, couldn’t get in touch with their hometown.
“When her dad was in the hospital,” Andino says in Spanish, “I was working. We had no way to communicate. Then they started to restore some phone service. The closest was two towns away, where Kelvin’s mother works. She was able to get some signal and communicate with him in the hospital, where he had some signal.”
That’s when they decided to go to Boston. Garcia says the San Juan hospital had consulted with cardiologists at Children’s Hospital. Garcia got in touch with Hospitality Homes, a Boston nonprofit that arranges housing for families and friends of patients who need medical care. Garcia says the organization put him in touch with a nonprofit that flies patients who cannot fly commercially.
They’re staying in the Brookline apartment of Gwen Taylor and Jeff Lindy.
“We have the space, we have the capacity, and it’s our responsibility,” Lindy says. “You gotta help people out who need help.”
Lindy says they have hosted maybe a dozen patients and families. He says in part, they do it because they think it benefits their own two young boys.
“Our kids get to see a lot of different people from different places, and they’re not just stuck thinking that everybody’s exactly like them and talks like them and has the same experiences from the same place,” Lindy says.
People have stayed from a couple of nights to four months — this time, Taylor says, without much notice.
“Let’s see” Taylor says. “The Singaporeans were still here at the time when we heard, so it must have been less than a week. We don’t need a lot of notice, though. We’ve just got the room pretty much ready to go. We don’t mind having people around.”
For now, Amaia’s parents are waiting for proof of coverage from MassHealth to go to their first appointment at Children’s Hospital.