"Iím about to transition to the UCMC ED (emergency department), but I used to work in the post-partum unit. Thankfully, there were four nurses altogether on the trip who were from womenís health. It would have been tough going, especially for the first time, not knowing anyone.
"Iíve always wanted to do some kind of mission trip; I just happened to see a flier sitting at our nursesí station for this one. Bob, one of the labor and delivery nurses who went, has gone on many, many missions trips, so he had scrapbooks full of photos. I looked through those so I would know what I was getting myself into, but arriving in Haiti was still a complete shock. There were people everywhere.
"Iím sure when we pulled into the compound my eyes were saucers. Iím sure I looked terrified, but you get over that pretty quickly. We unpacked our bags and then I had to work. There was no time to let anything digestóit was sink or swim, really.
"There was this one little boy in the hospital, Sammy. He was from a village out the mountains. He had right eye cellulitis, and his eyelid was extremely swollen and infected. He was actually helicoptered to the hospital, which Iím sure was completely terrifying to him. So for the first couple of days, he was silent and very withdrawn. But the nurses and the respiratory therapists, we took him under our wing, and he just became our little shadow. He would follow us everywhere; he was so adorable. One of the nurses gave him her little mp3 player, and he would dance and have such a good time. I think that helped him trust us.
"It was really hard by the end of the week. Someone had told him that we were leaving, and on Friday, he was upset and crying. Saturday he followed our van to the gate and stood there waving goodbye. It was really heartbreaking to think that Iíll probably never see him again in my life.
"I worked in the pediatric unit for most of my week. Many of the patients there have hydrocephalus (also known as water on the brain). Thatís one of those conditions that would definitely be different in the states, where children can get immediate care. In Haiti, shunts are placed, but itís too late. There were new cases brought in every day.
"There was one baby Oliver who was in the unit and on comfort care. His blood counts had dropped down to absolutely low levels, and he was an orphan. They donít have a blood bank in Haitióthe family members have to donate blood for patients. But this baby Oliver didnít have any family members to donate for him.
"I worked night shifts, and in the middle of the night, he would just scream this muffled cry. All you can do is give them pain medication and hold them so they donít needlessly suffer. But itís just heartbreaking because if he would have been born somewhere else, his life would have been completely different. But he was a little trooper. His vital signs were stable the entire week, and he had regular heartbeats and pulses. The kid was just a fighter.
"I had very good interactions with the Haitian nurses and doctors. It was difficult because some of them didnít speak any English. You would have to get an interpreter whose English might not be that great, so it was pretty difficult at times to give a report. We became really good at charades by the end of the week.
"They were so patient though. I canít imagine how hard it would be to have outsiders coming in to your hospital every week, but they do not get frustrated. They had great spirits and were always friendly and always amazing.
"For anyone who wants to go on a mission trip, I think this is a great one to start with. Itís awesome going with a group of people you can trust, and who are all great medical professionals and great people. Iím definitely going to go next year.Ē