BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Margarita Garcia and her family from Puerto Rico are grateful to be together in Bellevue, decorating their family Christmas tree.
Margarita says nothing could prepare her family for the destruction of Hurricane Maria.
“We prepared, we planned ahead. We prepared for a week, but a week turned out to be not enough,” says Margarita.
Two weeks later, she says her health began declining rapidly.
“I couldn’t reach any of my doctors. My husband had to go to 22 different pharmacies trying to get a hold of my meds and it was impossible to get them. When you have chronic diseases it’s very hard not to get treatment, not to be able to find the meds that you need,” she says.
Margarita says she knew if she was going to survive, she and her family would have to leave Puerto Rico. And so, they boarded a patient airlift services flight and arrived in Seattle on October 12.
A group of volunteers from a local church helped the family find a place to stay and supplied them with warm clothing, even getting her two teenage daughters enrolled in school.
“I’ve always wanted to come live on the mainland, mostly because I knew it was going to be better for my parents job-wise. And also I always planned on studying here after high school,” says Margarita’s daughter Nicole.
While the family settles into life here in Washington state, Margarita says they’re really embracing the culture.
“People here they have this spirit, this real passion about the Seahawks. So we never miss a game,” she says.
Margarita says she is so grateful for the kind people in the community who’ve reached out and shown their support.
“I feel very blessed because of our brothers and sisters, fellow U.S. citizens living in the mainland. We’ve had a lot of help from everybody here, so now it’s time maybe when we are a little more on our feet, to start paying it forward. All the help, it's really been incredible,” she says.
Margarita says her husband is a Desert Storm veteran and he's currently looking for work.
Her health has improved since arriving in Washington. And friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe account to get them through in the meantime.