Sunday, February 28, 2010

I find strength in those who depend on me

We arrive to the university hospital around 7:15. We have a short debriefing and then off to our units. There is no way to know what we are in for each day.

(Me with my two translators, James and Pierre.)

I meet with my interpreter, Pierre, and we chat about our previous night. I ask about his family, how his wife and kids are and he always says they are good. It's hard for me to comprehend they are "good" with their home destroyed and having to living in a small tent, meant for two but accommodating five. He says his kids love not going to school. I think to myself that perhaps they have not yet realized that their schools are destroyed and the devastation of the earthquake has taken the lives of their classmates and teachers.

After the brief conversation we are ready for our day, both of us knowing it's going to be long and hot. We don't give the conditions a second thought as we are immediately focused on making a difference -- bringing light to the darkness that surrounds so many here.

Arriving on the unit I take inventory to see what supplies we have for the day. I have learnt that many of our supplies are missing. Already patients are waiting for care. The long lines twist down the street. American care is here and the Haitians have welcomed it with open arms. They have a robust confidence in the work we do -- often expecting a cure for the uncurable.

As the chaos begins, there are doctors and nurses swarming the tents. Novice nurses work side-by-side with the seasoned healthcare providers. The newest additions to our ER flounder briefly, asking questions like "where is this antibiotic, where is this narcotic, will you start this IV, can you figure out what is wrong with this patient, I am new here can you help with what I should do”, etc. The intensity drives all of us to push our limits and immediately adjust to the demands from all sides.

After 10 hours of craziness in 100-degree heat, we finally come to a day's end and take time to reflect. Have we made the right calls? Have we truly done our best to make a difference? The realization that our Hopkins group will have worked over 1,000 hours within 10 days does not ease the demands I have for myself and the shortcomings I have identified within myself. It's two weeks out of my life -- a short time to do the good I set out to do.

Pierre has stood by my side all day. He's held my supplies at my side, tidied my workspace, and spoken fluently every one of my words. He comes here everyday to make a difference of his own. Knowing his family awaits him, he sets off back to his "home."

Despite leaving the ER for the evening, my mind is continuously rewinding through the day. How will I be better tomorrow? Am I good enough for these people who depend on us so much? I think of each face of each patient, each heart I have touched. The strain and stress can be overwhelming but I find a strength in those who depend on me. I will return tomorrow with a smile on my face, a soothing touch to my medicine, and shoulders to carry the burden of a broken country.

By Rocky Cagle, RN BSN
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Department of Surgery
Cardiac SICU

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