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National Excerpts from Haiti Relief RNs

RNRN Blog, 1/1/11

From California: Tim Thomas, RN, “The whole place is a hill of rubble,” he said. “It’s really difficult to get your brain around that level of catastrophe. Where in the world have 200,000 people died in one spot at one time?” The volunteer civilian nurses augmented the Navy team members on the Naval ship USNS Comfort, some of whom had been working without a break for three days. “When we arrived, nurses had been working around the clock,” he said. “I felt totally lucky,” he said. When he arrived aboard the boat, there were 200 people waiting for some type of surgical procedure, and in one month, the team performed 800 surgeries, Thomas said.  “In the two weeks I was there, I saw one sunset,” he said.

Chico, CA: An NNU member from Chico, California describes his life-changing experience, and the unforgettable memories, he earned while saving lives with the USNS Comfort team off the coast of Haiti.  As the article notes, Darrell Daughtry summed it up this way:  "If you're agreeable to that kind of work, and you don't mind long hours and no pay, it's a good thing."  He clearly was agreeable to that…making him an RN Hero. More

Modesto, CA: Marti Smith—a Modesto nurse and RN Hero—was profiled in her hometown newspaper when she returned from her work on the USNS Comfort. The article read in part: ” The ship's emergency room received 40 to 50 patients on busy days, all of them with serious injuries or illness. The nurses prepped them for surgery or admitted them to the open hospital ward, where patients rested in bunk beds. Smith worked 12-hour shifts for nine of the 10 days, with one day off, but had no complaints. The ship's military staff was exhausted from working 21 days straight. The nurses saw incredible cases of healing and forged bonds with Haitian patients that will stay with them for life, Smith said.” More

From Minnesota: “As nurses, it’s in our DNA to help,” says Minnesota Nurses Association President Linda Hamilton. “We don’t know any other way to operate. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Hastings or Haiti – our nurses want to be where they are needed.”
MNA partnered with its national union, National Nurses United. After weeks of logistical efforts and negotiations, NNU recently secured a formal agreement with the U.S. Navy to transport and place nurses on the ground in Haiti.

Julie Pearce, RN, who did not go along with a formal NNU deployment, writes from her own blog: “Another highlight of my day was passing by one of the tents only to see this young girl sitting on the edge of her bed, singing to herself and crying. She was alone and was coping with a rather fresh leg amputation. I can only imagine what was going through her head, what kind of loss she's experienced in the last month, and how she must envision her future to be. I sat down beside her quietly, put my arms around her and just rocked her. She continued to cry and sing softly. I cracked a little big here. Her pain chiseled away at the wall I'm having to reinforce around my heart to stay strong. I cried with her for a bit, we sat in quietness, and although we could not speak in another's language, the message of compassion and empathy were clear.”

From Michigan:  “It’s been four weeks and Haiti is becoming ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ The people of Haiti are going to need ongoing care for a long time, both physical and mental. We can’t just patch it up and put a Band-aid on it.”  This report is from, as one nurse wrote, “one of our own, a med/surg nurse from Sparrow Hospital; she was both thrilled and scared.  She is worried, however. The monsoon season will be starting soon and she worries about water contamination and the spread of typhoid and malaria. ‘Haiti is a whole different thought culture,’ she said. ‘Everything I do must be on a critical path that helps me determine, ‘Can I do this?’ “

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