News Stories

Empathy, Extra Effort Helps Save Life of Dying Patient in Puerto Rico

Published May 16, 2018

   “It is not often that we are called to assist with an endeavor that can have a direct effect on the life or death of another person.  This was just such an effort.  Because of the leadership, service and care shown by so many over these past few days, a mother/daughter/friend will be able to rest tonight without worry or the risk that the medicine she relies on every day to breathe and function will run out.”

  (Excerpt message forwarded by Mr. Rob Coyle, Vice President for Glaxo Smith Kline Pharmaceutical Company from Bruce Cox, Director of Lifecycle Management at Glaxo, Smith, Kline)

    Lisa Hardman was deployed in the Readiness and Contingency Operations (RCO) supporting hurricane relief efforts in late September when she received a random call from Rob Coyle who said he was a Vice President for Glaxo Smith Kline Pharmaceutical Company (GSK), and stated that his company had a dilemma.  A patient in Puerto Rico needed life-saving medication by Wednesday of the following week or she would die.  The hospital in Puerto Rico, he said, did not have any more of the medication. 

   “He explained that they had an employee with the medication waiting at the airport in New Jersey trying to get a flight out to Puerto Rico, but all flights were cancelled,” she said.  “He inquired if there was any way or any contact he could use to try to get the medication to Puerto Rico so they would have two possible ways to get the medicine there.”

   Based on her experience working for the U.S. Air Force Reserve for 23 years, her first thought was to call the Air Force. 

   “I figured I work for the Army now, and they have different ways of doing things.  I knew we had military flights going in and out, so I knew someone was getting on to the island.”

   Hardman referred the call to Stephan Vithalani in the RCO who immediately contacted Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials in Washington, D.C.  Mike Ganley and Brittney Hyde of FEMA linked Mr. Coyle up with medical representatives in Washington, and got Coyle an alternative carrier via the Air Force.  GSK was able to get the medication to Dobbins Air Force Base for delivery.

   On Monday, an employee of GSK was able to get the medication from the courier at JetBlue to get it delivered to the patient whose father retrieved the medicine shipped via the U.S. Military.  Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful.

   “I had fretted all weekend, wondering about the patient and if they were going to be able to get the medication to her,” Hardman said.  “I really felt vested in the situation.  I called the GSK employee back on Monday to see if he had been successful in contacting an alternative.  He replied that he would let me know what happened.  On September 26, Coyle sent me an email and let me know that the patient had received her medication and all was good.”

   Hardman said that for all of the stress working in the Emergency Operations Center for 30 days, it was good to know that something positive came of it.  She stated that she was so relieved that the patient got her medication and would live.

   “I felt so happy for the patient, relieved that whatever small part I had to play in the situation helped her and that she would live.  All I can do is Thank God that we could play a small part in getting this patient the medication she so desperately needed.”