It’s tempting to trust the waves of water that roll onto the beach at Punta Santiago, a tropical paradise where purple flowers peek through the sand like polka dots, and hazy fog highlights mountains in the distance.
Steve Edwards at work
For nearly 20 years, the walls of that home have remained a constant for Virginia. Her home was a place she didn’t want to leave, even when faced with Hurricane Maria.
After all, given her lifetime of seeing storms, she figured it would be OK to stay during this one, too.
She quickly realized, however, that this one was different. Water rose quickly during the Category 5 hurricane, forcing her to go to new heights to stay safe.
“I went and got up on the table,” she says via interpreter, of her actions to escape the rising water. Eventually, someone had to break into the house to help her get out.
Eventually, the water subsided but the damage was done. Save a few momentoes, the physical possessions of her life were gone.
“I lost everything,” she says. “Shoes, clothes, everything.”
A small statue that belonged to her mother sits on a shelf — "That’s one of the only things that survived,” she says — and a photo of her husband’s parents smiles from the wall.
The statue that remains
Nearly empty rooms, however, show the devastation of the disaster.
Much of that will be remedied by the time CoxHealth team leaves. That group includes Edwards, William Mahoney (president of Cox Branson and the Community Hospital Group), Lynne Yaggy (chief nursing officer at Cox Branson), Ron Prenger (senior vice president and chief hospital officer), Andy Hedgpeth (vice president of Human Resources) and Celeste Cramer (system director of Recruitment and Retention).
The team is currently prepping walls to paint, inside and out. They’re addressing plumbing issues, retiling areas of the home, and also engaging contractors to work as well when greater expertise is needed.
They’ve also purchased furniture to fill her home once the work is done.
“Since we are now recruiting nurses and other professionals from the island, we wanted to do something to give back,” says Hedgpeth. “We’re even pushing for legislation at the top level that compels companies to invest in the local community when they recruit here. We feel it’s the right thing to do, and we’re thrilled to help Virginia in this way.”
It seems Virginia is thrilled for the help as well.
“This is what God sent,” she says.