Sick Puerto Ricans desperate for aid hope for flight to US

They're waiting for help that may never come.

Sick residents of Puerto Rico say that waiting for a flight that might never come is still their best bet for getting the care they need.

It was around 8 p.m. Saturday, and Ophelia Quinones was sitting beside her husband reclined on a hospital gurney at Aguadilla airport in Puerto Rico.

The couple had spent most of the day waiting for an airplane that never showed up to the hurricane-battered island.

Quinones, 65, and her husband, Wilberto Feliciano, 86, had arrived at the airport in the morning to claim seats on a charter flight to Miami, Fla., where Feliciano, who is diabetic, would seek treatment for an ulcer he had developed in one of his toes.

"They didn't explain. Each time the plane didn't come, they kept saying it was delayed. It was delayed an hour, and then another hour, until we found out that it was cancelled," Quinones told the Daily News. "It never came, and now we don't know if it ever will."

RELATED: The most devastating images of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico

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The most devastating images of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico
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The most devastating images of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico
COROZAL, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 27: Luis Lugo and Awilda Valdez bath in spring water since they have no running water in their home since Hurricane Maria passed through on September 27, 2017 in Corozal, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread, severe damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grids as well as agricultural destruction after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 27: Hector Ojeda and Sonia Robles and Tony Ojeda cross a river on foot after the bridge was washed away when Hurricane Maria passed through on September 27, 2017 in Morovis, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO SEPTEMBER 25: A man helps a kid cross the San Lorenzo River in Morovis. Residents of San Lorenzo neighborhood can't access their houses because the river destroyed the bridge that communicate them with the main road of access. The mountain town of Morovis, in the south west of San Juan, is one of the most affected after the pass of Hurricane Mar�. Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico leaving behind a path of destruction across the national territory. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Maria Martinez stands next to her house which was damaged by Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa in eastern Puerto Rico on September 28, 2017. A week after the Category Four storm stuck, the White House said US President Donald Trump had made it easier for fuel and water supplies to arrive to the ravaged island of 3.4 million US citizens. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 28, 2017: After eight hours in line, Solymlar Duprey, age 47, holds her daughter Miabella Lawston, age 5, as they try to get on an evacuation cruise ship leaving San Juan. 'The situation is so critical. There is no electricity, fuel, water,' said Duprey. She was trying to locate her confirmation number to board the cruise ship. A Royal Caribbean cruise ship is evacuating over 2,000 people from Puerto Rico, St. John, and St. Thomas free of charge. People are attempting to get off of the island as lack of fuel, electricity and running water has crippled Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. (Photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Maria Olivieri removes a tree branch from her backyard a week after the passage of Hurricane Maria in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, on September 27, 2017. The US island territory, working without electricity, is struggling to dig out and clean up from its disastrous brush with the hurricane, blamed for at least 33 deaths across the Caribbean. / AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO (Photo credit should read RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images)
COROZAL, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 27: Irma Maldanado stands with Sussury her parrot in what is left of her home that was destroyed when Hurricane Maria passed through on September 27, 2017 in Corozal, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Residents with gas canisters wait for fuel after Hurricane Maria in the Miramar neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. President�Donald Trump�said he will travel to Puerto Rico to survey damage. He told reporters that the federal government is 'doing a really good job' in relief efforts and has shipped 'massive amounts' of food and water. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A vehicle drives through streets filled with floodwater near destroyed homes from Hurricane Maria in this aerial photograph taken above Barrio Obrero in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island last week, knocking out electricity throughout the island. The territory is facing weeks, if not months, without service as utility workers repair�power�plants and lines that were already falling apart. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
AIBONITO, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 24: People wait in line for water as they wait for gas, electrical and water grids to be repaired September 24, 2017 in Aibonito, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Customers stand in line outside a grocery store in the town of Dorado, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. Trump�ordered the Jones Act to be waived for shipments to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico immediately�at the request of Governor�Ricardo Rossello, White House press secretary�Sarah Sanders�said Thursday. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski /Bloomberg via Getty Images
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO SEPTEMBER 22: Power lines and fallen trees block a sidewalk at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus, after Hurricane Maria at Ponce de Leon Avenue in San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 22, 2017. (Photo by Pablo Pantoja/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 25: Yancy Leon who has been waiting in line for two days to get an American Airlines flight out of the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport continues to wait as she tries to escape the conditions after Hurricane Maria passed through the island on September 25, 2017 in San Juan Puerto Rico. Some of the people have waited days at the airport in hope of getting onto a plane after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, passed through. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Workers fix a light fixture at the San Jorge Children's Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. Trump�ordered the Jones Act to be waived for shipments to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico immediately�at the request of Governor�Ricardo Rossello, White House press secretary�Sarah Sanders�said Thursday. Photographer: John Taggart /Bloomberg via Getty Images
Travelers stand in line outside of Luis Muoz Marn International Airport after Hurricane Maria disrupted flight service in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. President�Donald Trump�said he may temporarily suspend a law that restricts the use of foreign ships operating in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports in order to accelerate the delivery of aid to Puerto Rico, where his administration faces mounting criticism over its response to Hurricane Maria. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/ Bloomberg
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The flight had been organized by Christopher Bailey, who founded the Florida Civilian Aviation Corps, to have volunteer pilots and planes deliver supplies to Puerto Rico, and connect them to patients seeking transport off the island. Bailey posted an ad seeking pilots on Barnstormers.com, an online aviation marketplace, to which a young pilot responded.

"He was a pilot, and he said he knew a woman with the money for a flight and they had arranged a charter plane," Bailey said.

Feliciano's daughters, who live in Orlando, caught wind of the initiative. They arranged for their father to travel to Miami so that he could have an angioplasty.

Their intentions were good, but the flight fell through, leaving dozens of patients, some in critical condition, stranded at Aguadilla airport.

Troy Martin, vice president of sales for Miami Air International, described what went wrong.

"We were contracted to fly the flight, we positioned the plane and crew in Orlando, but when we got there, we were never able to get a passenger manifest or equipment manifest, and the passengers were at the wrong terminal."

He said the flight crew waited for two hours before reaching the limit of how many hours they could work in a day. "The crew timed out and wasn't able to do the flight," he said. "So we ended up having to leave."

That’s not the only problem facing Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria that pummeled the island last month. The death toll in the U.S. territory stands at 45, with many parts still waiting for power and clean water.

The hospital in Aguadilla, on Puerto Rico's northwestern tip, where Feliciano was originally scheduled to undergo surgery, has become contaminated by mold that's grown as a result of 90-degree temperatures on most floors, including in the hospital's intensive care unit.

"The mold grows so fast at these temperatures and you can't have patients in the hospital," said humanitarian volunteer Dr. Alison Thompson. "It's a huge problem."

Patients requiring dialysis have been moved to an air-conditioned office building across the street, she said.

Thompson was called to the airport Saturday, which she and pediatric nurse Chris DeMello turned into a makeshift hospital through the early hours.

Forgotten passengers and their family members remained at the airport, some without anywhere to go.

Quinones and Feliciano said they were stuck at the airport with few alternatives. They didn't have a ride home, but were reluctant to go to the hospital.

And so they stayed at the airport, in hopes that another plane might rescue them.

"We want to get to Florida so that he can get an angioplasty and try to save his foot," Quinones said.

"Because they are talking about amputating his foot but we don't want that," she added. "He needs to leave."

Carlos Perez, an 8-year-old boy with pituitary dwarfism and a metabolic disorder, was cradled by his family inside the airport.

It had been two weeks since he'd taken his medication, which had gone bad due to a lack of refrigeration.

"They lost $500 worth of medication because it needed to be refrigerated," DeMello said.

His parents have been feeding him baby food since Hurricane Maria hit, because his restrictive diet prevents him from eating solid foods. With no power, Carlos is unable to follow his usual regimen.

"Baby food is the only thing we can give him right now, because we don't have access to prepare his food. We need a food processor and refrigeration, because he eats blended, pureed food only," his father, Jorge Perez said.

Perez said he heard about the flight through his sister. He wasn't clear on where it was coming from, or who had funded it.

But even when it didn't show, Perez could think of few options other than remaining at the airport. The family lives in Gurabo, about three hours away from Aguadilla. "We can't go back to our home," he said. "So we will just wait."

DeMello said there wasn't much she could do locally, other than check the boy's blood pressure, which she described as unusually high for his age.

"He needs to go to the United States. He needs a flight out," she said.

The plane they were waiting for finally arrived Sunday, albeit through another humanitarian aid effort. The organization was different but the mission the same, and Feliciano and his wife were able to catch rides to Florida, offering a sliver of hope amid the devastation.

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