On this island decimated by Hurricane Dorian, the health problems are rampant.
Infections. Diabetes. Alzheimer’s disease. Even paralysis.
Two weeks after Dorian annihilated much of Grand Bahama, some residents still languish with no electricity, dwindling food and limited access to medical care.
So, a team of volunteer medics from the United States goes door to door, delivering much-needed aid when some thought the world was starting to forget about them.
“They are godsent,” one survivor said after receiving a box of medication.
But as the medics delve deeper into some of the hardest-hit areas, they’re starting to see how badly long-term help is needed.
The journey started on a cruise ship
About 40 doctors, nurses, US Army medics and medical students boarded a cruise ship on a mission to reach ailing survivors.
They joined about 300 other volunteers on a relief trip organized by a group of Florida business owners.
The team leader on the medical mission, which CNN joined by invitation, is Tim Leyendecker, a 58-year-old US Coast Guard auxiliary officer who specializes in search and rescue missions.
“We want to help as much as we can,” he said. “We have a great team here, and we’re ready for anything.”
‘We thought her baby was dead’
Shortly after the boat docks in Freeport, Dr. Patricia Harding is overcome with emotion.
The doctor greets Rhema Nesbitt, a 21-year-old woman she met last week during her first aid trip to the Bahamas.
Nesbitt was 36 weeks pregnant and despondent after Harding, an OB-GYN, couldn’t detect the fetus’ heartbeat.
“We thought her baby was dead,” Harding said.
But a week later, both Nesbitt and her unborn child are doing well.
“It’s alive,” the doctor said, overwhelmed with relief. “I want to cry.”
The team then heads to a tent city, where white tents give a bit of cover to medical professionals helping hurricane survivors.
Harding gazes out the team’s minivan.
“Look at that person without a leg,” she said.
But the team was told the tent city didn’t have a dire need for the medics. So, they leave for one of Grand Bahama’s oldest communities, where there was great need.
‘We are a US rescue team. Are you OK?’
In Eight Mile Rock, on the west coast of Grand Bahama, the medics brace for devastation.
The community is named after the eight miles of solid rock along its shoreline. But Hurricane Dorian smashed it with ferocious winds and mammoth storm surges that hurled walls of water inland.
Leyendecker gives the team two reminders: wear rubber gloves, and don’t touch anything without them.
The first patient they treat is an 81-year-old man who appears weak in the oppressive heat.
Presendieu Pierre Mervil has a backache and a rash infection. But he has three words to sum up his thoughts after the hurricane: “I made it.”
As the medics go door to door, Leyendecker announces their presence:
“We are a US rescue team. Are you OK?”
Philoria Majuste says her father is paralyzed and needs immediate help.
Joseph Pierre, 61, has been sick for four years and has pressure ulcers on his skin, his daughter explains.
Leyendecker tells the CNN team not to go inside the house because Pierre is bleeding and the scene is too graphic.
Rampant risk of infection
Even basic — yet potentially lifesaving — drugs are hard to come by.
Jennifer Jones, 67, has been suffering pain in her sinuses. She is overjoyed when two strangers wearing blue scrubs show up at her home: Andrea Krasniansky, a physician assistant, and Ashton Pike, a third-year medical student.
Krasniansky examines her and gives her antibiotics and painkillers.
“I was glad because my face was hurting.” Jones said.
Krasniansky, who specializes in emergency care, says the risk of infections in these conditions is severe.
“When we have a storm like this, we always think about upper respiratory infections,” she said. “There is a lot of rain, a lot of getting wet, changes in temperature, with the rain, with the cold, with the winds and the body.”
In the beleaguered Pine Dale neighborhood, Krasniansky asks residents if they’re able to drink the well water.
One man says residents are bathing in it, but they can’t drink it because it’s now mixed with ocean water.
Dehydration is now a major concern in places where public infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.
Running water no longer exists in some areas, and many health clinics have been obliterated.
Patricia Miller, 20, is pregnant and sobbing. She’s terrified that the stress and chaos of the hurricane may have harmed her baby.
“As I was on the (evacuation) bus riding, the bus was like very shaky, and the driver was driving so wild,” Miller said. “I thought I was going to lose my baby there.”
Harding, the OB-GYN, uses a fetal doppler to try to detect a heartbeat. She tries to calm Miller down with a joke.
“Do you feel something poking — like an alien?” the doctor asks.
Miller laughs, possibly for the first time since the hurricane.
The doctor tells her patient that she believes Miller is probably five months along.
The expectant mom thanks Harding and cries.
“I feel relieved,” she said.
As the doctor hands her some vitamins, Miller weeps again. She’s been desperately trying to get some prenatal vitamins.
But like countless other Bahamians, it’s not clear when she’ll be able to see a doctor again.