After the Storm: Insulin Donations in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria was one of the worst hurricanes ever recorded. It slammed into Puerto Rico on September 19 and 20, knocking out power, causing major flooding and leaving roads impassable for weeks.

In the wake of this disaster and humanitarian crisis, Lilly and its partners on the ground, including PQMD member Direct Relief, worked urgently to get insulin and other supplies to people in need.

As soon as the storm passed, Lilly and Direct Relief connected with local officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate logistics for humanitarian relief. Five days later, Lilly made the first of several emergency shipments to the island that included insulin, food, water, generators and other necessities.

All told, Lilly and its partners arranged for five shipments with several types of medicine, including a total of 10,000 vials or pens of insulin.

Getting the supplies on the island was only part of the challenge. Lilly, Direct Relief and local officials worked together to identify where the insulin would be needed most, and where people could access it – including hospitals, dialysis centers and pharmacies. Many of which were still  closed or struggling to reopen.

Sometimes the insulin got to the right place just in time. One Lilly employee recalled stopping by a hospital to deliver insulin to an endocrinologist. “He was so happy to see us, he had tears in his eyes. One of the patients in the ER was suffering from ketoacidosis [a potentially fatal condition caused by very high blood sugar], and might have died without the insulin.”

This year, Lilly will deploy two teams of medical professionals, including nurses and diabetes educators, to volunteer with Project HOPE in Puerto Rico through their Connecting Hearts Abroad program.