Austin nurse’s Puerto Rico aid pledge grows to major endeavor

Kyle Scarbrough loads boxes of supplies onto pallets at his south Austin home on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)
Kyle Scarbrough loads boxes of supplies onto pallets at his south Austin home on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two weeks after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, some communities there are still waiting for power to be restored and struggling to regain access to food and clean drinking water.

Now a group from the Austin area is pledging to bring medical aid to the U.S. territory and the effort to do so is growing past what its organizer thought was possible when he started collecting supplies.

One box at a time, the help has poured in.

“This went from a small medical mission to a very large medical mission and now power relief,” Kyle Scarbrough said, stacking boxes of diapers, baby formula and personal aid kits on pallets on his patio in south Austin.

The collection of supplies was just a small fraction of that total he’s collected from various donors. In all, Scarbrough says he plans to take 10,000 pounds of medical supplies and an additional 8,000 pounds of solar equipment to fly down to the rural western part of Puerto Rico “where we’ll have a medical clinic, we’ll have surgical capabilities, and we’ll be providing a lot of staff.” He plans to leave on Monday.

Scarbrough, a registered nurse at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, organized a team of eight medical professionals to take the supplies and their expertise to help the nonprofit Fundacion Al Rescate De Mi Isla.

Helping out people in need, he said, is just something Texans do — whether during Hurricane Harvey or Irma, or all the way back to Katrina, when his mother, also a nurse in Austin, instilled in him the value of giving what you can.

“It’s kind of a family tradition,” he said.

So, when Harvey hit, he took his kayak to Houston for a day and helped bring families to safety. Then he went to Beaumont to help out there. Now his drive to help has spawned the aid mission to Puerto Rico, and after a few days fundraising online, the campaign reach close to half of the $10,000 he’s hoping to bring in.

You can donate to the campaign here.

“It has gone way over my head,” he said. “We’re able to provide more relief than I ever expected we would.”

Scarbrough expects to treat between 500 and 2,000 people and distribute to hundreds more the solar supplies and water filters. The team will be based at a medical clinic, but he hopes to venture out and support the people in “the most isolated places.”

“I focus on the mission and what’s ahead of us and providing relief to the people in need,” he said.

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