A helping hand from the mainland.
After Hurricane Maria the small and distant island of Vieques, which is just north of Puerto Rico, saw widespread destruction and its residents were left to fend for themselves. But a local Bay Ridge doctor went there last weekend to provide medical assistance to thousands of the island’s residents. Doctor Kirill Alekseyev from Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, traveled with three of his fellow alums from the American University of Antigua College of Medicine for a medical mission to service people in need of care and the needs were dire, he said.
“The biggest thing people needed was medicine — a lot of people had no insurance and there’s no pharmacy and a lot weren’t getting the medication they needed since the hurricane,” said Alekseyev.
The mission saw up to 8,000 people during the three-day visit, where volunteers and other health professionals organized a fair, to not only assist people with their medical needs, but gave them food, water, toys and baby necessities.
He said the island, which only had two physicians upon his visit, is only accessible by a ferry that is not on a definite schedule making it hard for people to seek care elsewhere. Dr. Alekseyev said some people he saw needed urgent medical care.
“There was a woman I saw about to have a heart attack, and we had to call the ambulance immediately,” said Alekseyev.
Most of the residents did not see a doctor or receive medication for treatable illnesses, and others were suffering with discomfort since the hurricane hit last fall, according to Alekseyev.
“So many people didn’t have any medicine that some were having chest pains for the past couple of months because they were lacking in aspirin and cholesterol and basic blood pressure medicine,” he said.
He said he and his team gave people necessary recovery drugs, such as ibuprofen and anti-inflammatory medication, and other essentials they needed to stay on top of their health.
“Everyone was so thankful for us being there and we’re happy we were able to provide the much needed care,” said Aleksayev.
On site were psychologist and social workers there to also assist people in their mental well-being.
Alekseyev said his passion is healthcare, and added he was always happy to be able to put people at ease and hopes to visit Vieques again.
“That’s what our mission is about — helping people get better and giving back whenever we can,” he said. “It’s a very rewarding experience to see people being thankful and I don’t think it happens often as we like, but whenever I have the opportunity to help people, I will.”