Volunteer: Haiti needs supplies and continued support
After spending a week treating victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake, he and 10 others have returned to Omaha.
Below, he reflects on his experience in Haiti.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your work in Haiti?
The lack of medical supplies and equipment. One night at a community hospital in Port-au-Prince, a fellow nurse and I had to stand by and watch two elderly women die because we lacked the needed equipment to save them, specifically a ventilator. We wondered if a 14-month-old who came in with severe pneumonia would suffer the same fate, but we were lucky to intubate him and transfer him to a facility that had a working ventilator.
What are the biggest challenges you see for future relief workers in Haiti?
Right now, many in Haiti feel lucky to be alive. Soon, reality will sink in and the stress of the situation will take effect, requiring numerous mental health professionals and coping techniques. Also, the number of amputees in the country who will become dependent on family members and others is outrageous and will necessitate creative and adaptive techniques of rehabilitation since prosthetics and wheelchairs will be few. Furthermore, right now there is a tremendous amount of volunteers and supplies being shipped to Haiti every day, but if that fades soon, it will be very difficult for future relief workers in Haiti.
Was there a particular moment from the last week that stood out to you as significant?
Watching fellow medical center nurse Jessica Foulk comfort a young woman who was devastated by physical injury, homelessness and family death by simply holding her hand and sitting by her side. Jessica overcame the cultural and language barriers with the gift of touch and she demonstrated the extraordinary care the staff at the medical center truly give.