After Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans with treatable ailments like bedsores and kidney problems died agonizing and unnecessary deaths, according to dozens of accounts from family members. This was a slow-motion, months-long disaster that continued even as Donald Trump lauded his administration’s response to the category 4 storm.
The chaos that followed in Maria’s wake changed the face of death in Puerto Rico. Young people’s deaths spiked, surpassing the growth in the death rate among the elderly, despite the widespread belief that the hurricane only affected older people and those with preexisting conditions. Deaths from sepsis, a life-threatening complication from infection, rose nearly 44% to 325, compared to the previous three years; kidney-disease-related deaths rose nearly 43%, to 211.
The spikes in deaths due to sepsis and kidney disease are red flags, but they’re only part of the story, as well as other causes of death which rose from 20% to 45% in the three months after Maria: pneumonitis, primary hypertension and renal hypertension, pneumonia and influenza, respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and suicide.