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Photo: Linda Bayless
Wichita State nursing alumna Linda Bayless spent 13 days in October assisting with Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Wichita State nursing alumna provides medical aid in Hurricane Maria relief efforts

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

  • Nursing alumna Linda Bayless spent 13 days in Puerto Rico providing medical aid during Hurricane Maria relief efforts.
  • Bayless and her team treated over 1,600 patients during her stay.
  • Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the people of Puerto Rico were grateful for the medical help.

Wichita State nursing alumna Linda Bayless spent 13 days in October providing medical aid in Puerto Rico shortly after Hurricane Maria caused widespread destruction on the island.

Bayless, an advanced practice registered nurse, was part of a group of volunteer medical professionals who were stationed at a makeshift hospital in Manati, a disaster-stricken area near San Juan. They worked with several disaster relief organizations to provide free care and prescription medicine to residents affected by the hurricane. 

The hospital had an emergency area where patients were treated for respiratory issues, lacerations, foreign object removal, head injuries and more. Part of the facility was used for the general population that the local hospitals were unable to accept.

Bayless and the volunteers worked long, stressful days and slept in corridors on cots. They faced a number of challenges including a poor water supply, sanitation issues, substandard food, exhaustion, limited medical supplies, no electricity and unreliable cell phone service.

Although the conditions were tough, Bayless says they were nothing compared to what many Puerto Ricans faced. She says many elderly people live alone and lost everything, including their medication. Most people have no running water, electricity, transportation or supplies.

“Even though things were rough, for me the situation was temporary, and I would be getting on an airplane to fly home soon,” she says. “But for so many people there is no end in sight and they have nowhere to go.”

Bayless and her team provided care to 1,600 people, with over 50 patients receiving 24-hour care in the facility. They treated a range of people, from a 6-week-old baby to a 102-year-old.

She says despite the unfortunate circumstances, patients were appreciative of the help.

“The people of Puerto Rico are so kind and grateful,” Bayless says. “Even when we had to turn people away, they still smiled and said thank you.” 

This was Bayless’ first experience serving as a disaster relief nurse. She says the experience was difficult, but her strong faith helped her get through. Sadness, anger and other emotions from the trip have stuck with her after returning home, but the experience also revived her faith in humanity. She was particularly inspired by a fellow volunteer nurse who was recently diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and wanted to do one last service while she was still able.

She says she would be open to serving again, particularly if it was for a local disaster.

“I’m glad that I was able to do my part to help people affected by this storm,” she says.

Bayless works in the Emergency Department at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. Before that, she worked at Via Christi St. Francis hospital for over 30 years.

Bayless received her master’s degree in family practice at WSU and will be starting the Doctor of Nursing Practice program in January. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies, reading and spending time with her family and cats.

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Created on Wednesday, January 17, 2018; Last modified on Wednesday, January 17, 2018
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