Hundreds of Medtronic employees are battling through the aftermath of Hurricane Maria while also coming to work.
October 4, 2017 -- Maria Hernandez has a lot of good reasons to stay home from work.
Her garage is destroyed, her home is damaged and there is no electricity. The old generator that she relied on for years when the power went out did not survive the storm.
But Maria reported for work on Tuesday at Medtronic in Catano.
“I can’t stay away,” she said. “Life goes on. We have to move forward. People need me.”
As a member of the Medtronic Customer Care team, Maria is in constant communication with hospitals and clinics throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. They have urgent needs for Medtronic medical supplies and equipment. “Patients need our help,” Hernandez said. “That’s why we’re here and I can’t let them down.”
But like a lot of other employees, Maria needs help too.
Maria is one of more than 1,200 Puerto Rico employees who Medtronic is helping acquire new generators to power their homes. Everyone’s need for electricity is important, but it’s particularly necessary for Maria – her ailing, 78-year-old mother is returning home from the hospital after surgery. Her mother’s insulin needs refrigeration, and the house must be cool to help her recover. Maria also needs to cook – both for her mother, and her ten-year-old son, Alejandro.
“This generator is saving me,” Hernandez said. “It’s not a luxury item for us. It’s life support for my mother.”
Many other Medtronic employees, including all the members of her customer service team, are also coming to work, despite the difficulties they face at home. Lymaries Vega Cordoba supervises a dozen customer care employees, including Maria. Vega Cordoba rode out Hurricane Maria at her mother’s house. But when the flood waters poured in, they moved to her fifth-floor condo.
“Work helps block out some of the difficulties people face at home,” she said through tears. “The fact that we are needed, that we are helping other people, gives us strength and purpose. I am so proud of everyone.”
Medtronic is going door to door in the hardest hit areas of Puerto Rico, to confirm the safety of employees who have so far been unable to do so. Relief supplies, including food and water, are arriving daily and being distributed to all five of the Medtronic sites in Puerto Rico.
Maria Hernandez is grateful for the help. Her hands hurt for days after the storm, from pushing back against the window shutters, repeatedly blasted open by the hurricane winds. “The wind was so powerful,” she said. “I remember saying ‘you will not kill me Maria.’ We survived the storm. We can survive the recovery, too.”