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Opelika veterinarian returns home from Puerto Rico

OPELIKA, Ala. -- For two weeks, Fur Buds Vet Clinic had to close its doors for appointments, but that all changed Sunday when Dr. Marisel San Miguel unlocked the doors and started seeing patients.

San Miguel returned to the states Saturday night after spending two weeks in her home in Puerto Rico.

The day Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, San Miguel and her brother were able to speak with their parents who lived in Ciales. However, they lost communication with them once the hurricane made landfall. The two were able to get a flight into San Juan and took the long journey of driving to their town.

"We got to my house," Dr. San Miguel said. "We didn't hear from our parents, and we got into a little bit of a panic. We started yelling their names, and my mom said to my dad, 'I think I hear Tito.' Then, I screamed her name, and she said, 'I think I hear Marisel.' She told my dad that she thought she was going crazy because she couldn't believe it. She ran to the door and opened it, and they both started crying."

Her parents were stranded without power and water for four or five days -- affecting her father's health. San Miguel said it even took those in good health a tremendous amount of time to accomplish simple tasks.

"You feel powerless when you can't get in touch with them," Dr. San Miguel said. "You feel like you can't help. There's no words to describe that feeling just to have them in your arms and know at least physically they're OK."

Once they arrived, San Miguel and her brother made repairs to the house, get food supplies, get their parents' medicine, provide electricity and more. She said communication with those back in the states was extremely difficult. She added that getting basic supplies such as gas was difficult as they had to wait 25 hours to get $20 worth of gas.

"I never anticipated seeing so much devastation because the island was wiped out from east coast to west coast," Dr. San Miguel said. "It was the entire island. When my brother and I were flying in, we could see the mountains, and pictures don't do a justice to what happened down there. You have to see it."

Those who know her best are glad to have San Miguel back in the states and say this trip is just another chapter in her life dedicated to giving.

"She's just an amazing person," Karen Moore of Fur Buds Vet Clinic said. "We all love her very much, and we learn from her. She's not just here ordering us around when we're helping with clients or patients. She teaches us what she's learned, and I've learned a lot about animals from working here, as well as our staff has learned a lot about animals because she wants to teach us all her love of veterinary medicine."

One of the things San Miguel was taken back by was the generosity of those back home helped make donations to help out her family. She said all the outpouring of support has been overwhelming. She added that the experience has also made her appreciate life's simple pleasures even more.

"It's like a dream come true, Dr. San Miguel said. "I left my hometown 17 years ago, and it's always been a stress not having my parents with me and knowing they're so far away, and I can't physically be there for them. This wouldn't be the ideal situation the way I would like them to come here, but I at least have certainty that they're well, and I can take care of them.

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