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Nurses are working to meet “mind-boggling” need among typhoon survivors

Michigan Nurses Association, 11/29/13

MNA member Tim Launius, RN, reports from the Philippines

RN Tim Launius of UMPNC is shown with a child at one of the mobile clinics the Registered Nurses Response Network is operating in Roxas City in the Philippines. One concern for survivors of the typhoon is malnutrition, especially among children.
RN Tim Launius of UMPNC is shown with a child at one of the mobile clinics the Registered Nurses Response Network is operating in Roxas City in the Philippines. One concern for survivors of the typhoon is malnutrition, especially among children.

As a nurse, Michigan Nurses Association member Tim Launius is used to working holidays.

But this Thanksgiving shift will be unlike any he has ever worked.

Launius, a critical care RN at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, is in the Philippines taking care of typhoon survivors as part of a team of volunteers from National Nurses United’s RNRN (Registered Nurse Response Network).

He arrived Sunday and has been working with others in mobile clinics around Roxas City on Panay Island, which was directly in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. The superstorm killed more than 5,000 people and has left hundreds of thousands without food, clean water, shelter or basic medical care.

Launius first worked out of a church that was partially damaged by the storm and, like everything on the island, ran on generator power.

“The first clinic day in the church was pretty sobering,” the Ypsilanti resident said in a brief phone update Wednesday. “We had over 300 patients. People are walking in with problems that are three weeks old, like puncture wounds and respiratory tract infections because they are sleeping in what’s left of their house, which is rubble.“

The nurses are working with local volunteer doctors and nurses to provide care such as cleaning and dressing puncture wounds and other injuries; administering tetanus and other vaccinations to prevent infections; and dispensing antibiotics, all while carefully assessing the patients they see.

Because supplies are limited, the nurses often run out of medications or have to ask for prescriptions for something else – an antibiotic with inferior coverage, for example.

They have also run out of liquid medications for babies with respiratory trouble and even multivitamins.

That’s important, because malnutrition is a big concern.

“It’s a little heartbreaking to see newborns coming in and you can’t give them vitamins and mom doesn’t look like she’s eating well, and these are breastfeeding moms,” Launius said. ”Financially, we need all the help we can get (to keep obtaining supplies of critical medications).”

The number of people in need is “mind-boggling,” he said.

“People are afraid that we will run out of things or pack up and leave,” Launius said, “so they are waiting when you get there in the morning.”

If the nurses weren’t there, the struggling typhoon survivors would have nowhere to go for care. They thank the nurses profusely.

“No matter how long the day is, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We stay until everybody is taken care of.”

Background and how to help

Tim Launius went with the second team from the RNRN to provide disaster relief after Typhoon Haiyan. He is among close to 3,000 RNs from all 50 states and 19 nations who have volunteered to assist with the relief project for Haiyan/Yolanda. NNU is encouraging nurses to continue to sign up, and inviting the public to contribute to the effort, at http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/pages/rnrn-disaster-relief-fund.

Michigan Nurses Association member Ashley Forsberg, an RN at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, leaves Saturday to join the disaster relief effort.

RNRN, a project of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of RNs, was formed in 2004 in the aftermath of the South Asia tsunami in 2004, when the need for nurses was not being met by traditional disaster relief organizations. Since that time RNRN has sent hundreds of direct-care nurse volunteers to assist following Hurricane Katrina, the massive earthquake in Haiti, and Hurricane Sandy.

 

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