Even after being there and witnessing the devastation firsthand it is still hard to fathom the depth of loss and grief. In the two weeks that I was there I learned more than I ever thought I would about Haiti and myself. The images and stories are haunting. As we passed through the marketplace of Port au Prince on our way back to the airport there were signs of life returning to “normal.” I couldn’t help but think that it was all a facade of the true underlying corruption and suffering of this tiny land.There were 271 patients living in tents and each was permitted to have one family member live with them. Inevitably, the number of family members was usually more than one, so at any given time there were about 600 displaced people living in the tents. I was assigned tent row 10 and was responsible for the nursing care of 36 patients. The injuries were varied but most included external fixation, infections, grafts, failed grafts and amputations along with some internal medicine patients. As you can imagine, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in varying degrees, was very common.I was lucky enough to be included as a nurse volunteer representing Operation Smile at a field hospital in Fond Parisien, Haiti, a village forty five miles east of Port-au Prince.My friend, Robin Kingston, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Hershey Medical Center, and I lived, worked, cried, laughed and prayed at the camp located on the Love a Child Orphange grounds for twelve days. The hospital was founded just days after the earthquake of January 12 in a joint venture by the Dominican Republic, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Operation Smile and Love a Child.
There were volunteer health care workers from around the world, each one of us working out of our comfort zones professionally and personally. The heat was oppressive, the sun unrelenting, until the evening when a refreshing breeze would usher in perfect sleeping conditions for our weary bones. We slept on the ground in sleeping bags in ample sized Eddie Bauer tents. Our showers were cold bucket showers behind tarps while looking up at the most beautiful night sky I have ever seen. We were provided one hot meal daily that was beans, rice and special sauce of the day, which usually included sardines!Before the quake, life in Haiti was more difficult than any of us could ever imagine. Now, they face an even more uncertain future buoyed by their unwavering faith and tenacious spirit. It was an honor and my pleasure to serve the gracious, resilient, lovely citizens of Haiti. I hope to return one day. Please pray for Haiti and its people.
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