Nurse in haiti, part 2

My cousin is a nurse that recently went to Haiti for a week to help….this was her second e-mail she sent out. Again, I know she is a nurse and not an OT, but it’s healthcare and I think there are a lot of parallels at times!

Hey my loves 🙂
I don’t know where to begin and I will likely drop a few tears while writing this email, in part because it is 6:45 in the morning and has been a while since I slept, but mostly because I am so extremely moved by this country (the very little I have seen) and these people.
I am a girl of many words (as you all know) and strong opionions (as you also all know) so, it is strange to find myself in a place where I truely have no words to convey what I am feeling but, here I go….
I think it might be hard to put things into words because there are such striking contrasts here. I have never, and I mean NEVER been in a country so poor. It is striking. Turn out we are volunteering at the trauma center in Port Au-Prince. When a crash victim (there are many) shows up, you DO NOT just carelessly cut off their clothes. Unless they are dying, you respect the jeans the boy has on… they may be his favorite. The first guy that came in, unconscious, in the back of a pick up truck, we lifted him onto the backboard, go him into the “ËR”, and in all the chaos, I said, shouldn’t we just cut off his clothes? The Haitian doctor looked at me and said, No, lets try and save his clothes. Trama shears back on the counter. I have now become obsessed with saving people’s clothes. Today, I was starting an IV on a woman in triage (I am finally figuring out the old school IV tools they have here, yeah!!!) and I got blood all over her dress. I could see the distress in her face and made sure to have the translator (we have awesome translators) tell her that I would find a way both to get her into the ER as well as to get the blood out of her dress. Luckily, my old school hydrogen peroxide trick worked wonders (although, I was worried about wasting h202)…
But, worse than missing material things, something unique to Haiti (I think) is that people are also missing family. I have NEVER, and I mean NEVER NEVER, seen people who love each other so much. I mean, not that you can quantify love, but it is EVERY MOMENT of EVERY day. Nurses do not clean, bathe, and feed their patients. The family is here, around the clock, helping their loved ones. There is a 15 year old girl who is horribly ill with metastatic ovarian cancer, her stomach is grossly distended from liver failure, and she is often in pain and/or short of breath. Her mother is at the side of her bed all day, all night, every day. She is in a cot. Her mother sleeps in a chair with her head on the bed. Or, there is a grandmother who recently had her left leg amputated, her grandson comes every morning (her daughter has passed) and strips her down, bathes her, feeds her, etc…. Or, there was a grandfather. He showed up barefoot at 4 in the morning to the emergency room carryinhg his 8 month old grandson. His legs were horribly swollen, he looked almost to old to care for this baby, yet, he sat there, awake and vigilent, soothing the little baby as a group of doctors and nurses swarmed in to take vitals, blood,etc. Or, there was a father, wiping tears from his eyes as his 4 year old daughter sat on our cot in the emergency room with a cough… I don’t know what it was like before the earthquake but, people have lost so much here… its like it has made them love more.
Ever since I became a nurse, I get this super positive reaction from people when I tell them what I do. It’s always felt odd to me because I never identified with nursing… I just kind of fell into it but, it was never a direct goal of mine. I can proudly say, as of this morning, I finally get it, and I love nursing.
I feel so honored to be doing what I am doing. I really, despite any amound of rambling, could never begin to capture how much emotion I am feeling. Long story short, you get to be with people, holding their hands, during the most critical moments of there lives. I don’t even speak the same language as the people here, but, as a nurse, you cope. You say with your eyes, and your hands, what you cannot say with words. You learn to talk with everyone. And it is SUCH an INCREDIBLE HONOR to be with people during these MAJOR moments in their lives.
Man, and nursing is FAST and DIRTY! 🙂 Man, you move, and you think. Constantly. Without stopping. Two of our emergency room beds are chairs, so, you can imagine there are no chairs for us to sit down in. We are on our feet, literally, and I mean very literally, all night. Last night, I was holding a tiny little baby who came in with a fever, vommiting and diarrhea, when he beautifully took a large loose crap down the entire front of my body. No worries. That why I wear scrubs right. I handed him off, ran into the back (aka my home) changed srubs (no time for a shower) and went back to the emergency room right as a man rolled up unconsious in the back of a pick up truck (pick up trucks seem to be the mode of transportation to the haitian emergency room). Another long story short, withing 10 mins, I had blood all over me (including my exposed arms, yuck!) only later to be in a wresting match, with another nurse and the crazy patient, as we tried to get some sedatives into this nutso drugged self. I didn’t bother to change my scrubs again. Meanwhile, just because you are knee deep in blood fighting with a confused, drugged, haitian man doesn’t mean you can forget about the baby. With my hands pushing haldol, one eye on the patient, my other eye is looking at the iv bag for the infant. There are no pumps in haiti to do your work for you….
sigh. so much to say but, I have to wrap it up. The doctor in line behind me wants to skype with her family before her kids go to school.
So, last thoughts.
After work today, “T”, my coworker and I, found out that there is a prayer service before clinic begins. All the people who are not critically ill enough to be seen in our 4 bed emergency room are turned away and told to come back for clinic in the morning. So, when we finshed at 6 am, we went to the clinic, which opens at 8. At least a hundred people where gathered. At 0730, a woman came, and began a prayer session with a song. Everyone stood, together, and sang, not for all that they don’t have, but all that they do. They prayed for strength and cried out. “T” and I stood there in our bloody scrubs.
I can’t even say exactly what made us cry becuase there is so much here to cry about. You can cry from saddness. You can cry for love. you can cry for beauty. You can cry for gratitude, to the people here, for accepting us, for this experience, for every moment of life. you can cry becuase never before in your life have you felt so human. (karen’s note: this was my favorite paragraph. I bolded it.)

At the end of the ceremony, the woman leading it, gave a thanks to all the volunteers who have left their families and their contries, to help the people of haiti. and of course, tears continued to flow down our cheeks.
Anyways, I can’t hog the computer, and I have so much more to say, but most importantly, I love you guys.

Apr 13, 2011 | Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none