Bicol Clinic Foundation Disaster Relief Medical Team Hurricane Dorian decimates the Bahamian islands September 2019
Hurricane season was in full swing in Florida, September 2019. The Bicol Clinic Foundation staff was out buying tarps and water, and securing the office down for one of the scariest things a South Floridian can hear during hurricane season…
A Category 5 is on it’s way and Boca Raton Florida is ground zero for the eye of the storm!
Most business’s close and private citizens try and take a plane or car ride to a city not in its path.
Not so for The Bicol Clinic Disaster Relief Team. Headed by Dr. Mitchell Schuster, Founder, the phone calls went out to organize medical supplies, Doctors and volunteers to help, and donations to fund the mission that was being mounted to offer medical help and relief to medical teams who had arrived once the island was cleared for rescue and recovery, only days ago.
While South Florida DID escape the major parts of the storm, our neighbors, the Bahamas Islands were not so lucky. The storm caused catastrophic damage to the area, injuries and loss of life to the people and animals who call the Bahamas home. It will be YEARS, if ever before they return to normalcy.
Knowing time was of the essence, The Bicol Team sprang into action and found a 40ft. private boat donated by Mr. Dan Henry for use to transport the team and supplies. A generous patron of Bicol, Mrs. Julie Wolkoff, called her condo manager from The Mizner Tower, Mr. Michael Cox, who authorized the use of one of their boat slips free of charge to stage the team and its equipment. Boat Captain Tony Marine was in charge of physically navigating the obstacles to get our team to the islands, working in tandem coordination with the Coast Guard and the Bahamian government.
The office staff went into high gear and began putting calls out for monetary donations, medical supplies, food, water and most importantly, doctors willing to leave their practice and accompany Dr. Schuster to the worse hit spots of Marsh Harbor and the Abaco Islands.
Answering the call from S. Florida were Dr. Phyllis Toon; OB/GYN, Dr. Marc Bergman; Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Mitchell Schuster; Internist and team coordinator Tess Schuster. Joining our Doctors from out of town, Dr. Robert Reily; Trauma Surgeon, Dr. Martin Gibbs; Internist and the boat owner Dan Henry. Donors began dropping by the office with checks and credit cards, other local Doctors brought over medical supplies ,and the Boca Raton Regional Hospital took up donations from the staff that their radiology department matched, to present us with checks totalling $3,000. The Sailorman Marine store offered fuel bladders to store fuel on the boat so our team would not be stranded without gas, and within 36 hours we were loading our boat and making the crossing to the Bahamas.
Upon our arrival, the supplies were unloaded, and with the help of the citizens there, we made our way to clinic sites where weary Doctors were overjoyed to see “fresh eyes and ears” willing to spell them for much needed breaks. Dr. Bergman accompanied a patient heading to the US on an air ambulance keeping the patient stable. Unfortunately, the devastation was intense, and the animal lovers in our group were heartbroken to see deceased animals at every turn that had no way to survive the brutal storm that took their lives as well as some of their owners. The team got down to work helping those that could use assistance and they worked tirelessly until we had to evacuate the team a few days later as another tropical storm was baring down, again targeting the Bahama Islands.
Tired, and heart weary the Bicol Disaster team arrived back in S. Florida wishing there was more we could have done, but knowing our presence there was much appreciated by our Bahamian neighbors.
To ALL of our Patrons, Donors, helpers, staff and volunteers who made this mission possible, The Bicol Clinic Foundation would like to offer our most grateful thanks for the help that came pouring in on such short notice. We have some amazing people who help make missions like this possible on the spur of the moment and we know it could not be done without your help. God Bless to All!
Owner of the private boat “TAIL GATOR” Mr. Dan Henry, who graciously donated the use of his vessel and stayed on to help crew, transporting the Disaster Medical Relief Team and Medical Supplies to The Bahamas in response to Hurricane Dorian Sept. 2019