On Tuesday, the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center packed 50 to 60 boxes of medical supplies to the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer and Medical Center in an effort to assist the center's patients after Hurricane Maria.
The initiative was led by Dr. Mariana Stern and Dr. Larissa Rodriguez, both professors of the USC Keck School of Medicine. The relief effort came about when Mariana Stern, a professor of preventive medicine and urology, got in contact with a colleague at the University of Puerto Rico who informed her of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
"She told me that they were in desperate need of basic supplies to treat their patients," Stern said. "The cancer center she works at is also a medical center. She said they needs basic things such as antibiotics, alcohol, syringes, gauze. They were running out of all these things and they didn't know where to get them."
The funding went towards a vast amount of syringes, antibiotics, alcohol and other basic supplies that are often found in an operating room.
"There were two lists," Perez said. "There was a pharmacy list that the pharmacy team put together and we got the surgical list. It included things like gloves, surgical packs, things that they would used in small surgical cases."
Many of these supplies are used in the operating room to treat infections, and the tools would be helpful for the treatment of cancer patients, who are at higher risk of contracting infections to their depleting immune systems, Stern said.
"With all the delays and the lack of electricity, a lot of patients are experiencing delays in their cancer treatment," she said. "They have of greater need for antibiotics."
There is also an increased number of intestinal infections, according to Stern. "People don't have access to water and they might be drinking water from natural sources that might have been contaminated," she said. "So, overall we're sending them basic things they might need."
Larissa Rodriguez, a professor of urology, has been involved in reaching out to Puerto Rican students to form a sense of unity around the natural disaster.
"I reached out to some of the offices at USC to try gather who they are," Rodriguez said. "Slowly but surely, I have been gathering a list of students that identify as Puerto Rican. They are about 20 to 25 undergraduates who I've reached out to. I got the list about three days ago."
Rodriguez said many students felt grateful that faculty were involved in reaching out to them.
"They're trying to organize as a form of helping their families, people they know, helping the island — but also feeling like they're doing something," she said.
Rodriguez also spoke how the aftermath has made students feel being so far away from home.
"One of the feelings you have being over here is helplessness," she said. "You see this happening and it's a little difficult not being able to go because there's no place to stay when you go. They have started collecting donations, mostly clothing items, baby formula, diapers and things that are really need in the island."
Rodriguez was personally affected by Hurricane Maria's devastation; her mother is elderly and is living in an institution.
"Being over here is tough," she said. "My mom can't remember the last time she had chicken or a can of fresh fruit. But given the bigger spectrum of things, they have water. They have food, they have intermittent electricity. Comparing it to various people in the island, they are doing well."
Currently, there are three million American citizens — over 80 percent of the Puerto Rican population — that are still without power. 1 million American citizens are still without drinking water, which is roughly one-third of the island's inhabitants, according to CNN.
According to Sandro Perez, the supplies sent to the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer and Medical Center are enough for one month, and the center will possibly send more supplies after the initial shipment runs out.
This story previously stated that the hospital administration spent $300,000 to fund the relief effort, which is incorrect. The administration did not disclose how much was spent on the relief effort.
The story was updated on 10/24/17 at 11:54 A.M.