Many hospitals in Puerto Rico are still without power, and the federal government has not evacuated the many patients who are depending on diesel generators to keep their ventilators working. But one rapper has. Pitbull sent a jet to Puerto Rico to fly cancer patients to hospitals in the mainland United States for treatment.
Born Armando Perez in Miami, the music artist has been discreetly helping, sending his own private plane to pick up cancer patients that need chemotherapy treatments. That led to Puerto Rico's congresswoman, Jenniffer González, thanking him on Twitter.
"Thank you @pitbull for lending your private plane to transport cancer patients from PR to the USA so they can get chemo," she wrote. That led to widespread attention to the artist's good deed. His response has been very humble. "Thank God we're blessed to help. Just doing my part," Pitbull told The New York Daily News in a statement on Wednesday.
Puerto Rico is still reeling from Hurricane Maria, which hit the island last week. Now, more than a week later, most Puerto Ricans are still waiting upon the arrival of aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A plane arrived on the island Wednesday with water, food, diapers, and other supplies, but much more help is still needed.
Among those suffering most are people in hospitals, so Pitbull's help is particularly well directed. The Department of Defense noted Tuesday that only 11 of 69 hospitals on the island have fuel or power. That's something that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to rectify by providing generators. They're being shipped to the island.
Before help arrived, two died in intensive care in the capital, San Juan, according to the mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz. The hospital ran out of diesel fuel. CNN reported that the number of casualties in hospitals could rise in coming days if San Jorge Children's Hospital runs out of fuel too. Some 12 children there depend on ventilators to breathe.
"Right now, we only have diesel for today and tomorrow. We're already working on refueling our tanks so we can extend our power generating capability, which is at 50 percent right now," Domingo Cruz Vivaldi, the hospital's executive director told CNN on Tuesday.
And that diesel fuel was a gift from another nearby hospital. On Monday, the facility had actually ran out completely and ventilators were operating on battery power. When Pavia Hospital Hato Rey found out that the Children's Hospital was out on Monday, they shared a tank of their own diesel.
But that won't last much longer. A doctor at the hospital took to Twitter Wednesday to draw attention to the situation. "Please we need HELP in PR," Dr. Felix Seda of San Jorge's wrote. "We have a catastrophe in our hand, many people and children are going to DIE." He then asked, "Where are our leaders.?????" before ending with, "HELP!" CBS News' David Begnaud reported that the Puerto Rican government should bring more diesel on Thursday morning.
Cruz Vivaldi told The New York Daily News just how bad things could get if hospitals aren't up and running soon. "I think we'll see a huge increase in cases in the next three months," he told the paper. "This is a humanitarian crisis. Many people have lost their homes. They don't have potable water. They're going to get sick eventually. It's immediate help that is desperately needed right now."
It's in this environment that Pitbull is stepping up by sending his own plane to evacuate patients who are able to travel without being hooked up to ventilators and other medical equipment. Other artists have tried to raise donations and awareness. But Pitbull has actually stepped in to solve a problem that the federal government hasn't even gotten to yet.