TAMPA, Fla. - Not having power for many is an inconvenience. No air conditioning, no television, no microwave. But for Valerie Burke’s infant son, electricity is the only way he can stay alive.
“My main concern is my son’s heart medicine that has to be refrigerated,” said Burke. “He has to be put on a pulse monitor at night while he sleeping, to alert me if there are any problems with his heart.”
He was born with a congenital heart defect and his medicine has to be in the refrigerator. The power in their home has been out since Sunday, since Hurricane Irma knocked it out.
Their church donated a generator on Wednesday, but they still will have to continue to fuel that with gas. Before they got a generator, they were forced to run back and forth to the store in search of ice. Burke called TECO once the power went out to explain her situation.
“They told me I had to have his cardiologist fill out some paper work. If I would have known about it back in May, I would have known about the medical watch program,” said Burke.
A program Burke said she knew nothing about. She is working to enroll now, but she said she had a conversation with TECO when she brought her son home. She said the person who answered the phone told her they had notated everything in her file and that was all she needed to do to ensure she would be put on a high priority list in the event the power were to go out.
We talked to TECO today, they tell us they have about 500 customers enrolled in the Medical Watch Program. In order to be eligible for the program, you have to require life-sustaining equipment in your home, that's electric dependent. Enrolling in the free program does not guarantee priority restoration during massive outages. What they will do is notify customers when work is being done in your neighborhood before, so that you know your service might be interrupted.
For Burke, she has learned her lesson and wants others to hear her warning. Even when you think you have a backup plan...have several others.