MARIA: Tampa doctor with Puerto Rico ties aiding Maria relief efforts

By Katie Jones, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017, 12:43 PM EST

In between seeing patients at their physical therapy clinic in Tampa, members of the Santiago family have been collecting donations to send back home to Puerto Rico.

  • Santiagos unable to check status of home in PR
  • Family stocking up on water, clothing, fuel, non-perishable items
  • Supplies collected will be flown via charter plane

"The water is limited, electricity is limited and the food is limited. These people are suffering," Dr. Jose Santiago said.

The Santiagos have been in touch with most of their family members, but haven’t been able to check on their house in Puerto Rico. They said watching Hurricane Maria’s devastation from a thousand miles away has been gut wrenching.

"It's horrible, horrible knowing that as much as I want to be down there, I can't," Dr. Santiago said. "I've shed a lot of tears the last couple of weeks during this tragedy. It's a beautiful island."

Until the family can get to the island themselves, the family has been stocking up on supplies like water, clothing, non-perishable foods, and most importantly fuel. The supplies will be taken down on a charter plane.

"That's one of the highest priorities right now," said Glyssel Santiago-Cooper. "There are hospitals, pediatric units, senior facilities that do not have generators that provide adequate care for patients."

The family has already hauled one load to Puerto Rico, and another went down on Thursday. The family said their hearts are broken along with those on the island, and want them to know they’re not alone.

"Puerto Rico holds the biggest place in our hearts," Glyssel said. "Our family is from Puerto Rico, I was born in Puerto Rico, this is a mission that's long term, not short term. Our island has suffered a catastrophic natural disaster."

The Santiago family is still collecting donations to help with long-term relief. If you’d like to help, visit them on the web at http://santiagotherapycenter.com/media/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SantiagoTherapyCenter/.