Madison VA volunteers return from helping people in Puerto Rico - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Madison VA volunteers return from helping people in Puerto Rico

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MADISON (WKOW) - -

Months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the final healthcare volunteers from Madison's veterans hospital have now returned home after spending weeks helping people in desperate need of care. 

As disaster hit the island, a team of nurses and other staff from Madison's VA Hospital was ready to respond to care for the many people hurting.

Patient care director David Murray organized the volunteers who faced power outages and water shortages as they cared for people who were sick and dying. 

The nurses all worked basically 12-hour days, seven days a week, so we had two shifts going for 12 straight days with no breaks," Murray told our Madison affiliate WKOW 27 News. 

Jane McCarthy saw the people facing the worst tragedies in the intensive care unit in the San Juan VA Hospital. 

"The leadership at that facility went above and beyond to make sure that those who are visiting were able to do and carry out our mission," McCarthy said. 

That mission was to relieve exhausted VA workers in Puerto Rico and take over caring for patients while they got some rest.  

Volunteers like certified nursing assistant Josh Collier found motivation in the resilient community that stepped up to help them work long hours to continue to care for patients. 

"People we were caring for had lost everything, so just knowing that made it a lot easier,"  Collier said.

The team is part of the Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System, DEMPS, a national VA program designed to provide emergency support to areas impacted by a national disaster or emergency. 

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