As Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, Dr. Zaskia Rodriguez received a desperate plea from a patient: She was in labor.
"She said she was in pain since 7 a.m., and was having bleeding and spotting," Dr. Rodriguez, an OB-GYN practicing in Ponce, Puerto Rico, told TODAY Parents. "I told her she needed to go to the hospital."
With winds gusting up to 85 mph, torrential rain falling and debris flying, Rodriquez drove to meet her patient at the hospital.
“I had to be there for her,” she said. The drive, normally five minutes, took much longer and was terrifying.
“Everything was dark — there were no lights; no electricity,” she explained. “It was raining and windy — I was scared.”
By the time her patient made it to the hospital she was 4 centimeters dilated and in active labor.
Rodriguez was relieved to see that the hospital still had power, fueled by a generator. After five hours of labor, Rodriguez’s patient welcomed a healthy baby girl.
“It was a beautiful delivery,” Rodriguez added.
Rodriguez had already been speaking with many of her 140 pregnant patients — 20 of whom were due to give birth — via email, Instagram and phone.
"They were tracking their contractions and their symptoms very closely," she explained. "They were asking, 'How are we going to get out of here and to the hospital?'"
But giving birth safely in a hurricane was just the beginning.
'How I am going to take care of my baby with no electricity and running water?'
Rodriguez says her patient had only one thing on her mind after giving birth.
"She asked, 'How can I take care of my baby with no electricity or running water?'" Rodriguez explained. "I think that's the worst part — when they go home and they face all the limitations."
While her clinic was not damaged by the storm, it was without power or running water, like many remote parts of the island. A diesel shortage threatens to disrupt power to the hospitals.
"The hospitals are the thing we need the most," Rodriguez explained. "The ventilators; the air conditioners; everything the hospitals need to run is in danger now."
Five days after Hurricane Fiona hit, Rodriguez was taking care of a patient when her generator ran out of gas.
"The lights just went off when I was attending a patient. For the first time, I was frustrated," she added, beginning to cry. "It's very hard, because I try my best but the government doesn't help us. I feel like we're alone in this. I feel like we're not being heard or helped by the government. I don't see any troops. I don't see anyone here. The electricity lines are on the ground. No one comes to help us. I feel very alone."
Puerto Rico is part of the United States, as a territory of the U.S. More than 480,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power, according to PowerOutage.us, an organization that estimates outages based on utility data. More than one week since Hurricane Fiona hit, 13% of the island does not have access to running water.
"How are we going to care for our patients?" Rodriguez asked. "I have a generator, and we're so blessed to have that. But next week, we'll have to limit the number of days we open because of the shortage of fuel ... We have patients to care for. I want to be there for them, but if we have no electricity or power it's not possible."
Rodriguez adds that she knows some doctors have closed their clinics entirely, leaving pregnant patients scrambling.
"I've had people call my office asking, 'Can I go there? I don't know where my doctor is. I want to know how my baby is.' That is the worst part," she added. "We don't know how all our patients are and we can't give them adequate care."
'My babies understand what mommy does'
Rodriguez has two children, ages 4 and 2.
More than a week after the hurricane, she does not have power in her own home. Still, she’s more worried about her patients without electricity or running water.
She says trying to balance the needs of her patients with the needs of her children — especially in the wake of Hurricane Maria and now Fiona — is really hard.
"My babies understand what mommy does. They understand that mommy has to take care of other babies," she said. "But it's very challenging — as a mother, as a wife and as a doctor — to try to do everything and to be there for everybody."
She said she's always thinking about her patients, especially now.
"I cannot take a real break," she added. "I always have to be there for them and for my family."
Rodriguez knows what life is like with a new baby, and she's afraid about the mental health of her patients.
"They don't have the resources that they need to feed their families; to bathe their families; to be clean," she explained. "I'm afraid they'll get depressed as a result and they won't be able to get the help they need. I'm afraid my patients will need me and they won't be able to get to me or reach me."
Rodriguez says even women who are months away from giving birth are in danger, too.
"I have seen some patients with gestational diabetes who have uncontrolled levels of sugar because of the things that they are eating now," Rodriguez explained. "The products are not fresh. We are basically eating bread and butter — if they are out of electricity, they cannot have an adequate diet. Patients with hypertension or high blood pressure are very vulnerable too, because of the stress."
“We, as women, take care of basically everything and everybody," she added. "We want to give our family the best.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com