‘Unsung heroes’ help Bellevue family from Puerto Rico

Father starts work two months after family left Hurricane Maria wreckage

On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria rocked Puerto Rico, causing mass destruction.

By Oct. 12, the Muñoz-Cintrón family had enough and flew to Bellevue to start their new life.

The family secured housing and their girls were on their way to starting school in the Bellevue School District by Oct. 18.

And by Dec. 4 Rafael Muñoz-Cintrón, the family’s father and primary breadwinner, started work with the King County Prosecutor’s Office as a legal assistant.

Concurrently, Monday is also the day a gofundme.com account set up for the family raised $7,000. It’s $1,400 away from reaching its goal of $8,500.

“We thank God every day we were able to get on our feet so quickly,” Rafael Muñoz-Cintrón said.

The family, which consists of Rafael and Margarita Muñoz-Cintrón, their daughters Stephanie and Nicole and mother-in-law Josie, attributes their success to the generous Bellevue community, which has donated money, furniture, food and more during their time of transition.

While local churches stepped up in huge ways, some donating thousands of dollars for the family’s initial first and last month’s rent, Margarita Muñoz-Cintrón is especially thankful to a Bellevue rheumatologist who provided serious treatment for her auto-immune disease at the low cost of $1. Not only was it very affordable, but the doctor put Margarita Muñoz-Cintrón on a new treatment plan that improved her condition so much within three weeks she no longer needed her wheelchair.

“It has been a very emotional month,” she said, noting that every kind gesture shown to the family has been where the “true American spirit shines.”

In the days after Hurricane Maria, the family had trouble contacting Margarita Muñoz-Cintrón’s doctor and her prescription was running out.

After he finally got his wife’s doctor to write her prescription, Rafael Muñoz-Cintrón then had to travel to 22 pharmacies trying to collect her needed prescriptions. The supply chains were not delivering prescription drugs to retail pharmacies, he explained. When he did get the drugs, they were limited.

“Out of 90 pills, they only gave 30,” he said.

Now, Margarita Muñoz-Cintrón is walking and hopeful one day she’ll be able to play volleyball with her girls, who have been playing for eight years.

To help his daughters regain some normalcy from the move, Rafael Muñoz-Cintrón found an inexpensive volleyball net and set up a makeshift court for them to practice. Expecting his wife to complain about the expense, Rafael Muñoz-Cintrón was surprised when she instead embraced the gift.

Prior to contracting her disease one-and-a-half years ago, Margarita Muñoz-Cintrón played masters volleyball.

In another act of kindness, the Northwest Juniors Elite Volleyball Club, which is part of the USA Volleyball Puget Sound Region, provided $4,000 in scholarship assistance so Stephanie and Nicole can play. They’ve both made their teams.

Last week, the American Legion Post 161 told Rafael Muñoz-Cintrón they were making him a member and paying his dues for a year, as he served during Desert Storm in the U.S. Air Force, and they would be helping out with rent and utility bills by donating $5,000.

The Muñoz-Cintrón family calls each person who has helped “unsung heroes” and looks forward to building their new life in the Pacific Northwest, however, the community they left in Puerto Rico is always on their mind.

Power throughout the island still remains an issue, and there’s ambiguity on how many deaths are being considered as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Rafael Muñoz-Cintrón’s stepfather just left the island but has plans to return in January. The family’s five cats are still back home and while they have arrangements for three to come to the United States, two must stay behind.

“We’re grateful to get out,” Margarita Muñoz-Cintrón said. “At the same time, we can’t stop thinking about those who are still on the island.”

‘Unsung heroes’ help Bellevue family from Puerto Rico