A Puerto Rican man narrowly escaped Hurricane Maria just in time to receive two lifesaving organ transplants in Dallas.
61-year old Miguel Talavera got the call Monday that he had less than 12 hours to get to Dallas from Puerto Rico to get the kidney and liver transplants he'd been waiting on for months.
Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria. The storm made landfall Wednesday morning as a category 4 storm. At least two people are dead and millions are without power indefinitely.
Miguel Talavera had been waiting for the transplants for nine months and got the call just days before Maria hit his home country. He and his wife were able to get out, but most of their family is still in Puerto Rico.
Talavera has lived with kidney disease since the 90s. He's already had two kidney transplants but developed an infection and liver failure from one of them.
Talavera had been waiting for a new liver and kidney transplant since January until finally getting the news Monday. But he only had until midnight to get to Dallas before the organs would go to someone else. So he rushed to the airport in San Juan with his wife.
“The airport is overcrowded. A lot of people, silly people, crazy people, trying to get a reservation to get off the island because the hurricane is a big one,” he recalled.
Hurricane Maria was about to devastate Puerto Rico. Talavera and his wife tried every airline but everywhere was booked.
“I need to go there today. They have a donor. Two organs are going to be transplanted today. Can you help me?” Talavera told airline employees. “They said, ‘We can do nothing.’”
Until finally, Delta Airline employees found him a flight Monday afternoon and one for his wife the next morning.
“He said, ‘Don't worry, I'm going to help you. Here we are,’” Talavera recalled. “He got a ticket for me.”
Talavera had a successful transplant surgery Tuesday at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Even his doctor says he was extremely lucky to get out of Puerto Rico when he did.
“As you know what's happened to the island right now, there's no way to communicate with anyone,” said Dr. Vichin Puri, a transplant surgeon. “So if it happened 24 hours later, we wouldn't have been able to get in touch with him. And he wouldn't have gotten this transplant. It would've gone to someone else.”
Talavera and his family are watching what's happening to their home from afar. So far, they’ve been unable to get in touch with family as most of the island is reportedly without power.
“I'm thinking about my mother and my brothers, my sisters,” he said.
But Talavera is feeling fortunate to be here.
“I feel like the best word that describes it is blessed,” said Gabriela, Talavera’s daughter. “We are so thankful for being together, for having this happen to us because it has been a blessing.”
It's unclear when the family will be able to return home. They expect to stay in Dallas for the next few months as Talavera recovers from his surgery. They're still waiting for any word from their family back home.