It has been about three weeks since returning from Haiti and I think I have finally started settling into my “normal” life here. I decided to write about what Haiti was like from a nurse’s perspective.
The devastation was overwhelming. Everywhere I looked there were buildings crumbled, people standing on broken roads, and women standing in lines that went on for miles, waiting to be distributed a simple bag of rice. I spent my time in Carrefour with Relief International and slept in a tent amidst the mosquitoes, heat, rain, and roosters who had no internal clock and crowed all night.
As a RN, I was fortunate to see every patient who waited for hours to be seen. During our triage time, I was able to speak with them and not only get their chief complaints, but also hear about what happened and where they were during the earthquake. Everyone I came upon had lost someone close to them. Most were still sleeping in the streets because either their house was demolished or they were too afraid to enter because of the fear of another quake hitting. The poverty was overwhelming and malnourished children were the norm.
I was lucky to be able to spend my time there with my friend and fellow Emergency Department colleague Deb Lyon. Together we assisted in training Haitian nurses to take over the clinic as we left. The doctors were wonderful and came with all areas of expertise. During triage we knew who would get the malnourished child, and who would get the patient with hypertension. Our triage skills became stellar.
They say a picture tells a thousand words, but I believe the eyes tell so much more. I can never describe what I have seen, heard, felt, and even smelled, but I do know I will always have a special place for Haiti in my heart. This has been an experience I will forever hold close to me and would do it again in a minute. It has reminded me why I became a nurse and I believe it has made me an even better nurse.
I want to say thank you to Relief International and Kaiser Permanente for giving me this opportunity to share my knowledge and compassion as a nurse to those in need.
Patti Parker, RN, CCRN