Chicago doctor helping in Puerto Rico shares harrowing stories

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago area doctor who just returned from Puerto Rico knows first-hand just how dire the medical crisis is there.

Dr. Eric Mizuno saw the devastation from Hurricane Maria in person. He spent about two weeks in Puerto Rico. On Thursday, he was back at work in Humboldt Park and sharing stories of what he experienced.

He kneeled at their bedsides in Puerto Rico, helping the needy, the hurting and the sick.

"That's all you can do is focus on your own efforts....where you think your skill set is, and how am I supposed to help people today," said Dr. Eric Mizuno with OMNI Healthcare.

Dr. Eric Mizuno says he was onboard the first non-military flight to land in Ponce, Puerto Rico. From there, he trekked through floodwaters to remote parts of the country - reaching desperate people in need of medical attention, like one woman who told this story.

"Her dad killed himself a day before the hurricane. Horrible. By the time we got up there, she had tried to kill herself two times. She said, yeah, I don't want to be here," said Dr. Mizuno.

A country in ruins. The mental toll and the physical one, where life itself seemed to come and go with every breath.

"His oxygen generator, which needs electricity, was being run like eight hours a day. Well, you need to breathe like 24 hours day, it's better. So we moved him to a hospital that has a full-time generator," said Dr. Mizuno.

With destruction around them, there were moments of levity. Like one man.

"He said, 'what are you doing here.' I said, 'I'm a doctor. I'm here to help.' And he said, 'No, what are you doing here. You're my doctor,'" said Dr. Mizuno.

Yes, his doctor here in Chicago at OMNI Healthcare in Humboldt Park, where Dr. Mizuno is back at work Thursday. The thread of Puerto Rico is part of the daily fabric here, whether a patient is worried about his mother on the island or a co-worker concerned about family.

"I feel I want to break down when they call, but I want to be strong so they can stay strong," said Ada Aviles, an OMNI Healthcare employee.

Staying strong, not just for today - but weeks, even months to come.

"Thankfully, we're in a Puerto Rican neighborhood where they won't let us forget. And hopefully we'll be part of that effort to not let people forget. This need is going to be on-going for a long time," said Dr. Mizuno.

Dr. Mizuno has banned a word from his vocabulary - can't. He said there is so much you can do to help others, it's a matter of going out and doing it.

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