Moore County Native, DeLois Coggin, recently traveled to Puerto Rico to support ongoing relief and recovery efforts on the U.S. island territory hit by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20.
Coggin is a Physician Assistant and a member of the North Carolina Disaster Management Team. The 36 member team arrived in Puerto Rico on October 19th and remained until November 2nd.
Supplies had to be pushed in a shopping cart across washed out road
Their mission was to provide medical support, and once they arrived on the island they were divided into Forward Medical Task Teams.
Coggin and her team were embedded with the 14th Combat Support Army Hospital in Humacao, PR. They worked out of a large arena that has been set up as a mobile hospital, complete with operating rooms, an ICU, emergency room, and walk-in clinic. All of this operated on generator power.
The local hospital was operational but with limited services since they were also on a generator. The local hospital had limited hours but the mobile military hospital provided services 24/7. There were also local physician clinics that were open but again, only with limited hours.
Coggin’s team at the mobile hospital would treat anything and everything. Heart attacks and other serious medical emergencies were treated and stabilized, then transferred to regional hospitals that were fully operational. Minor acute injuries and illnesses were treated and then told to follow up with their regular providers.
House sliding down side of mountain
“One day I was working the front area near the entrance, and this car came flying up with the horn blaring,” Coggin said. “The mother jumped from the car screaming in Spanish holding her four-day-old infant who was not breathing. I immediately took the child and began CPR and rushed the child to the back where the medical teams worked to save the infant’s life. The baby was stabilized and flown out by a medivac helicopter. Had the field hospital not been there, the outcome would have been much different.”
Coggin has spent most of her life helping others.
Trees down barricading road from passage to help people
Coggin grew up in Rockingham and Southern Pines. She has been a Physician Assistant for 30 years. She started the Open Heart Surgery Program at Moore Regional Hospital with Dr. John Krahnert in 1990.
More recently, she has worked in the hospital’s emergency room. Currently, Coggin works and lives in Black Mountain, N.C.
When Maria hit the island, Coggin said she felt a need to go and help the people. The devastation took her breath away; however, she focused her skills and attention on the people who needed medical help.
“We also treated a fair amount of machete injuries and injuries from people stepping on nails as people worked to clear the debris,” Coggin said. “People also came to us for diabetes, asthma, and blood pressure medicine because supplies were very limited.”
DeLois Coggin taking in a beautiful sunrise being grateful for another day to help
This isn’t the first mission Coggin has taken with North Carolina Disaster Management Team. She went to the Gulf Coast to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Harvey.
Coggin said, “The work in Puerto Rico, and the people will always be in my heart.”