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Two Ike hospital evacuees enjoy time in Boro
East Georgia Regional Medical Center CEO Bob Bigley, right checks in on patient Jack DiBlasi who was relocated from a hospital in Key West, Fla. when Hurricane Ike threatened the region. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Two unlikely patients at East Georgia Regional Medical Center are enjoying their stay in Statesboro courtesy of Hurricane Ike.
    Jack DiBlasi and Guillermo Bejarano are two of 16 patients evacuated to Statesboro from hospitals in the Florida Keys ahead of Ike, which was on track late last week to hit the Keys and Key West head on.
    DiBlasi was a patient at the Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West, while Bejarano was in Fishermen's Hospital in Marathon, about 40 miles north of Key West. The hospitals were ordered evacuated on Saturday and DiBlasi, Bejarano and 14 other patients from the two hospitals were flown on a C-160 cargo plane to Savannah on Sunday. They arrived at Hunter Army Air Field and were transported to East Georgia Regional.
    "I never heard of Statesboro, Georgia before," said DiBlasi, 79. "I sure have now. The hospital's great. The doctors and nurses are great. The people sure are friendly. Maybe I'll move here."
    DiBlasi, who said he is recovering from pneumonia, has lived in Key West for the past 30 years and called himself "semi-retired."
    Bejarano has had a particularly wild week. A resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bejarano works for a company that offers scuba diving tours in the Bahamas. While on a tour near the tiny island of South Cay, Bejarano said he noticed a contusion on his shoulder that became very sore.
    It was determined he had a severe infection. So, last Thursday he was airlifted from South Cay to the Marathon hospital. Then, following surgery on his shoulder, he was told he was being evacuated to East Georgia Regional due to the threat from Hurricane Ike.
    Like DiBlasi, Bejarano had never heard of Statesboro. He, too, is impressed with the hospital, especially the food.
    "I never thought food at a hospital would be so good," Bejarano said. "It was quite surprising. The people here have made us feel welcome and provided excellent care."
    Bob Bigley, hospital administrator for East Georgia, said even with Ike now not expected to pose a threat to the Keys, it is uncertain when the patients will return to their home hospitals. The two Florida hospitals are owned by Health Management Associates, which also owns East Georgia Regional.
    "It could be as soon as Wednesday, but more likely Thursday or Friday," Bigley said.
    DiBlasi said he's been through a few hurricanes in Key West, but never evacuated before.
    "I probably wouldn't have left this time," DiBlasi said. "But I had no choice. I'm glad I did. I got to meet some great new folks."