Medical student details hardships in Puerto Rico in wake of hurricane  

  • Ivonne Radinson Submitted Photo

  • Ivonne Radinson —Submitted Photo

Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2017

AMHERST — Since evacuating from Puerto Rico on Oct. 10, Ivonne Radinson has been staying with her cousin in Amherst and goes to the post office as often as possible to send supplies, including clothes, shoes, candles and batteries, to her family.

During Hurricane Maria, Radinson, a medical student, stayed with her grandmother and remembers waiting out the storm for 12 hours in the bathroom, which was the safest place in the home.

“I’ve been through a couple of hurricanes, but never anything compared to this,” Radinson said.

The first few days following Hurricane Maria were difficult for Radinson and her family.

“It was really chaotic, for three or four days, all my grandmother and I ate was rice,” she recalled.

Radinson said she would sometimes add avocado or eggs, and drove 2½ hours one day through what she described as wild traffic just to get meat.

Living on a 10th floor apartment in San Juan, Radinson returned to find that window-mounted air conditioners had been blown out and ceiling tiles had been damaged by the winds.

“We’ve never seen anything in our life like that,” Radinson said.

Radinson said she felt fortunate that she could get up at 2 a.m. to get in line for gas for her vehicle and her grandmother’s car.

“I would break curfew seven days in a row,” Radinson said, observing that her hospital scrubs allowed her to convince authorities that her skills were in need.

Radinson, who was named Miss Plus America Elite 2017 in July during the competition in Dallas, Texas, used her winnings from the pageant competition to first fly to Orlando, Florida, and then get a connecting flight to Hartford, Connecticut.

But she had to leave behind her dog, as well as the crown and sash from the competition.

Radinson said she will return to Puerto Rico next month to complete her medical boards, with the test scheduled for Dec. 22.

She is hoping to transfer her residency program to the Pioneer Valley to continue her medical studies, with a focus on autism, as she doesn’t think things are getting better anytime soon on the island.

“I really want to go back and help, but I don’t have water or electricity at my apartment,” Radinson said. “Everything is so complicated now; everything is so limited.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.