breaking news

Third Trump Campaign official pleads guilty in Russia investigation

Holiday Heroes: Former Army pilot goes back to his roots to save lives in Puerto Rico


Russell Rawcliffe picked up only a little bit of Spanish his first time in Puerto Rico, but the place left an impression on his mind decades later when he heard about a powerful hurricane ravaging the island.

He lived there for three years as the child of a military family stationed at Fort Buchanan, and later achieved fluency in Spanish while serving a two-year Mormon mission in Argentina. Rawcliffe, 37, also served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot and is now settled in Paulding County as a financial analyst for Fresenius Medical Care.

The company operates 28 kidney dialysis clinics in Puerto Rico, which were greatly threatened by Hurricane Maria this fall. Rawcliffe knew the patients needed his aviation, military and logistics skills more than his financial talents, and sprung into action to help.

“I was humbled by the opportunity to go down there and help,” he said simply.

RELATED: Sticking around after Hurricane Maria blew through Puerto Rico

Rawcliffe spent more than a week helping to coordinate delivery of medical supplies to Fresenius’ Puerto Rico facilities, which included finding planes to deliver phones, fuel, food and water along with medical needs. The father of four left his family behind in Atlanta to aid patients at the dialysis clinics, helping them receive the care they needed to stay alive.

Fresenius operates 28 facilities in Puerto Rico, of which 26 were back up and running right after the hurricane. The other two needed significant repairs.

“The hurricane hit on a Wednesday,” Rawcliffe said. “I was brought in on a Friday. Monday morning I headed out of the Miami airport for Puerto Rico.”

Cellphone coverage was spotty. Images of pain and destruction that most saw only through a television screen he experienced in person. Just getting diesel fuel to generators at the Fresenius facilities proved to be an enormous challenge. Water could be hard to find at times too, and gas lines sometimes stretched a mile long.

But the ever-humble Rawcliffe was focused only on the mission at hand to make sure his company’s patients received what they needed. He says he was impressed most of all by his fellow employees in Puerto Rico.

“They nearly lost everything and then showed up to dialyze patients,” he said. “I couldn’t be any more proud.” 

HOLIDAY HEROES

This is the first installment of Holiday Heroes, a seasonal AJC series that focuses on philanthropic efforts of local Atlantans. Each story captures the charitable impact meant to change communities for the greater good. To read more of the series, visit myAJC.com/living.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Jennifer Lopez celebrates twins Max and Emme’s 10th birthday
Jennifer Lopez celebrates twins Max and Emme’s 10th birthday

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony’s twins are growing up so fast! Max and Emme celebrated their 10th birthday on Feb. 22, and Lopez was right there to celebrate with her kids, sharing multiple posts on Instagram.  >> Read more trending news  Sharing a video of her kids’ -- whom she affectionately calls her coconuts -- cutest...
Big catch: The best places in Georgia for Atlanta fishermen
Big catch: The best places in Georgia for Atlanta fishermen

Some of the best fishing environments in the country are right here in Georgia's lakes and rivers.  For the casual fisherman (or fisherwoman) and their families, Lake Patrick has already won the title as Georgia's best place for family-friendly fishing.Plus, serious fisherman get to work far south of Atlanta on commercial fishing operations...
Know before you go: metro Atlanta farmers markets guide
Know before you go: metro Atlanta farmers markets guide

Once trendy and scattered, farmers markets have become a common staple in neighborhoods across metro Atlanta. More than 35 farmers markets dot metro area maps, each offering handcrafted bites, locally grown produce and some seriously delicious grub. New to the market? Don't breeze through. Take time to explore the great food, friendly faces and...
Coca-Cola taps into nostalgia with new fruit-flavored sodas
Coca-Cola taps into nostalgia with new fruit-flavored sodas
Coca-Cola is going back to its roots with two new artisanal sodas. Coca-Cola Georgia Peach and Coca-Cola California Raspberry hit grocery stores, restaurants and bars across the country this week.  Although the Atlanta-based brand has been moving away from full sugar beverages with recent rebranding efforts such as Coke Zero Sugar,...
5 simple things you can do for the environment and your health
5 simple things you can do for the environment and your health

With climate change predictions coming from scientists on a regular basis, many people are increasingly concerned about their personal impact on the environment. At the same time, who isn't concerned about their health and well-being? While it's a no-brainer that severe pollution and ominous natural disasters can be detrimental to humanity, there...
More Stories