Miguel Olivera, now 75, survived combat and being impacted by Agent Orange in Cambodia as the US waged war against the Viet Cong decades ago.
Now, at home in Puerto Rico, he is facing another threat to his life — a fridge without power.
He needs insulin to survive but his last vial is sitting, at risk of spoiling, in that refrigerator that can no longer keep it cool.
His town, Aguas Buenas, in the mountains above San Juan, was left tattered by Hurricane Maria.
The lush tropical foliage is gone — as if a massive lawnmower came from the sky and shredded it all.
Olivera and his wife Diana Aponte, 73, sheltered from the storm inside their home — it’s built on concrete stilts sunk into the hillside, and Aponte feared it would slide into the ravine.
Water came through the shutters as the wind howled outside, and at one point the couple huddled on the living room floor, prepared to die together.
“The hurricane is worse” than combat, Olivera says.
A massive electricity power tower crashed next to the couple’s house — cutting the town off from help, as well as knocking out power for who knows how long.
Aponte is still shaken by what they went through when Maria crashed ashore and by the crisis they see no way out of. Yet she still insists on making a perfect café con leche for visitors.
“I can’t describe the storm. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” she says. “I thank God I’m still alive.” All her fears now are for her husband, and that insulin in the fridge.
It’s just one story among so, so many of families devastated and struggling in Puerto Rico.