Dying woman wants to return to Maria-hit Puerto Rico

By Cait McVey, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 06, 2018, 5:17 PM EST

After fleeing Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, an elderly woman's dying wish is to return to the island with her beloved husband before it's too late.

  • Maria Perez, Diomisio Perez married nearly 70 years
  • Couple has been in Pinellas Park since destructive Hurricane Maria
  • Teresa Giammona says her mother wants to return to Puerto Rico
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Maria Perez, 87, and 89-year-old Diomisio Perez have been married for 68 years but together longer if you count when they began dating in high school.

"He saw her and she was the most beautiful woman in the town and he fell in love," said their daughter, Teresa Giammona, who brought both parents to her home in Pinellas Park after Hurricane Maria hit the island.

"A lot of convincing," Giammona said of moving her parents here. "Almost a little bit forcing to get them here."

Since arriving, Giammona tells us her mother's health began to quickly decline.

"(Diomisio) kind of likes it here, but he says, 'No, I'm with her for whatever she wants," Teresa Giammona said.

Giammona said there isn't much time left for her mother, whose last wish is to return to Puerto Rico.

"It breaks my heart because it's my mother, and I love her and I don't want her to go," Giammona said. "Even though she's in bed, I can still talk to her, I can see her and brush her hair, clean her face. But if she's gone, when she's gone, she's gone."

Letting go will be hard but Giammona plans to make it happen, even if it means taking out a $20,000 loan to pay for the air ambulance needed to fly Maria back.

"We came to a point where we said, 'What are we going to do? I mean, we'll just make it up somehow,'" said Teresa's husband, Nick Giammona.

When the Giammona's asked their father what he wanted to do, he made it clear he would remain by his wife's side.

"He kind of likes it here, but he says, 'No I'm with her for whatever she wants," Teresa Giammona said.

And Maria Perez would like to return home, where her and Diomisio’s love story began.

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