Nurse in Haiti
My cousin is a nurse who recently went to Haiti to help out for a week. She wrote us two mails – here is one and hopefully I will find the other one. I also know an OT friend who went to Haiti a few months after the earthquake and I am hoping she will share some of her experiences here! I just asked her. 🙂 I know this is an OT blog and not a nursing one, but hey, it's healthcare, so good to see the perspective!
No way I can even BEGIN to describe it here but, on a quick break so, little update.
First of all, wow! This experience is a real exercise in patience. For example, I'm hungry. We get 2 meals a day, 10am and 4hours later, 2pm (mind you, I am working nights so the food comes while I am sleeping). Luckily, I had found a stash of granola bars etc. in the fridge, which, was like gold. Then today, I went back, and the whole bag was gone. My heart dropped. Lying in bed, I was agonizing over the stolen power bars, “Why didn't I steal them first!?” I have never been in a place where there is no option for more food. So, I was lying there, trying to fall asleep, literlly unable to get the damn hyjacked granola bars off of my mind when I realized… what is really keeping me from falling alsleep? Am I really that hungry. When I focused more on the sensation of hunger, I realized, its not that bad… it was the frustration and loss of security of knowing that there is backup food that was really bothring me. So now, Im better… 2 meals a day is more than most people here get. I am definitely not starving. So, se la vie.
Many other things are difficult. It's cold (the americans I room with insist on air conditioning the room). I don't have a towel. Don't have lots of things… but, Ive adjusted…
I am working nights, 6pm-6am. Haiti is a total mess. When we arrived, people were hanging on the fences, clawing through the holes, yelling… Our haitian escorts rushed us through the crowds, jammed us into the back of a van, and swept us away. We are not allowed to leave the hospital compound… absolutely forbidden. And from the looks of the people comming through the ED, I understand why. lots of stab wounds, gashes, broken bones, etc…. Not even a local will walk home alone at night. I feel like I am working in a refugee camp. I have never before been somewhere so isolated… with no peek, other than the injured patients, at what lies outside the walls of this compound.
We arrived Sat around 10am, had orientation, slept a few hours and started working that night at 6. Luckily, I am here with a coworker, “T”, and we were placed on the same shift. We literally jumped in. The “med surge” beds,”ëmergency room” and “icu” are all connected so, we work where we are needed. Last night, when the stab victim came in, I was on one arm starting an IV, another nurse on the other, and a 3rd woman priming bags of normal salined to start pumping fluids back into her. Everyone here works togeter… there is no doctor this, nurse that…. if a job needs to be done, you figure it out, and do it. Period. We don't know where anythings is, the supplies are noexistent or different, but, you do what you can do. I have started reusing gloves because we are running out. There is not even a sink to was your hands in. No soap. All the beds are in one small room, the family members stay close by and feed, toilet, and clean their loved ones. People, when they can, pee on a bucket on the floor.
I signed up to donate blood. That will be the one time I will get to get out of this joint and see what is going on behind these walls. There is no blood here. At home, we transfuse at a hemoglobin of 7, sometimes even 10. A woman came in today with a hemoglobin of 2! I didn't even know that was possible.
We will be working all 7 days. We sleep in bunk beds (there are 7 night nurses in one room) outside of the emergency room. I can not even put this experience into words quickly enough (I have to get back, I am on shift right now) but, let me say….
I don't know how I waited 29 years to do something like this. I am reconsidering my entire life plan and trying to figure out if it is possible to work internationally while being a mother. I have never in my life had such a humbling experience. I have never seen people that love their families so much. THIS is medicine. THIS is healthcare. There are no rules in place that dumb down the decisions you make or the actions you take. You look, listen, assess, and treat.
One of my patient's today is a 15 year old boy who was hit by a car, thrown up into the air, and broke his femur when he landed back on the top of the car…. I can't speak with him but, I wish I could. I wish I could comfort him more, give him a game to play with…. I considered bringing out my ipod but then realized it would likely create more drama that happiness. He is so stoic.
It's probablly 90 degrees here and we have no cups. We give patients water 30cc's at a time (less than a shot glass).
I could go on and on and I have only been here 1…2? days (nights is so disorienting).
All I know is,
this is life.
It kinda sucks (soap and a towel would be nice considering the blood I am stepping in) but, it's so invigorationg to feel like I am actually doing something with my life.
p.s. sorry for all the typos, super rushed,
The classic, “perspective” we get when we leave our cushy lives.
Anwyas, internet here is spordic (there is one sometimes functioning laptop for all of us), but, Im here, safe, and happy.