Kansan rides out Hurricane Maria in Dominica

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean this week, leaving devastation behind.

One of the hardest hit islands was Dominica, a place that is home to 1,500 medical students at Ross University School of Medicine.

One of those students is from the town of Benton, 20 miles northeast of Wichita.

Jessica Stephens, 22, graduated from Circle High School in Towanda.

She graduated from Wichita State University in 2016 and ventured off to Ross University School of Medicine shortly after.

For the past year, she’s been at the school, focusing her studies on Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Her older sister, Samantha, says her and the rest of her family made sure Jessica was fully prepared to ride out the storm.

“I was on FaceTime with her just making sure she had everything all set up, we had her write her name and phone number and medical school ID number, in case something happened so they would know who she was,” said Stephens.

It was around 8:30 p.m. on Monday that Samantha last talked to her little sister.

“She jokingly said I don’t have time to be scared, I worry about this water that is coming in through my windows,” said Stephens.

Samantha says that was the last time she spoke to her sister.

She says the following days have consisted of keeping tabs on the news for any word of what was going on in the Caribbean.

“We are just constantly trying to find anyone with any information, calling the hot-line phone numbers, calling them 27 times until you finally get through,” said Stephens.

For Stephens and her family here in Kansas, time continued to pass without hearing any word if Jessica was okay.

“It was 52 hours,” said Stephens.

It wasn’t until last night that Stephens says a woman with Ross University called them about Jessica.

“We finally got an answer from her, last night, right before midnight and she said Jessica is accounted for, is at campus and is safe,” said Stephens.

Samantha admits, it was comforting to hear that her sister is okay, but she still has some concerns.

“It is immediately replaced with extreme anxiety, is she hurt? When is she coming home, we just want to hear her voice,” said Stephens.

Samantha even got emotional when talking about what she will say to her sister, when they finally get to talk again.

“I would just tell her how glad I am that she is safe and just tell her how much people were worried about her,” said Stephens.

Samantha says her sister could be evacuated as soon as Friday from the island.

From there, she says Jessica would go to St. Lucia.

However, she’s unsure if and when Jessica would be flown back here to the United States.

Samantha says her and her family have also been active on social media trying to help others locate loved ones in Dominica.

She says a Facebook page, titled Ross University School of Medicine Family Support Group has been set up.

Several people have been posting on there and giving out information to help others locate those who are currently unaccounted for.


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