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Nursing in Haiti - recharged and back to work

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Nursing Times’ resident Haiti-based nurse Fi Stephenson on a productive hiatus and joyful welcome back to the earthquake-hit country

The patients didn’t want me to go on my R&R. They said that any time was just too long away from them! I promised that I would be back and would think of them every single day. I was excited but also trepidacious about leaving Haiti. I had had a chat with Carwyn and Reninca, who had been in Haiti for a few years and knew many missionaries who had returned to the western world. Having lived in Nigeria before and having travelled a lot I knew that the difference in cultures was huge… and especially as I was going to Florida of all places! We decided the best thing to do was for me to book into a hotel somewhere and unwind for a few days until I was ready to face the western world again.

I am so glad I did it. The first time I looked in a proper mirror was a bit of a shock: dark rings under my eyes and hollow cheeks. I had lost weight! I spent a few days just walking and sitting on the beach. Absorbing my surroundings. Doing a lot of thinking. Feeling guilty about being able to eat and drink what I wanted … and for having a pedicure (I owed that to my poor feet – they were in bits!). Soaking up the sun.  Slowly de-stressing. I guess I felt guilty because I was able to leave Haiti and luxuriate in western comforts. Haiti seemed to be on my mind all the time. Having been so vague about my flight arrival, my friends fully understood when I confessed that I had landed a few days before to unwind. It did not take long before I was able to face the world as I had known it before and go and see my lovely American friends.

With Haiti on my mind I set forth to try to get some more wound gel supplies whilst in America. We were now running very low and I really wanted to try and keep the supply going. Unfortunately, it was expensive at $28-35 per 3oz tube. Having explained my mission to my lovely friends Jim and Kirsten, they rang around a few friends and managed to find a contact who owned some urgent care units. A couple of conversations later I had been offered 100 tubes at $4.50 per tube! In the end it was all donated thanks to the amazing generosity of the Braden family and urgent care unit owner. Thank you! I also had another medical contact who managed to get a large amount of wound gel and dressings and a fan (thank you!), so my suitcase was full and my mission was accomplished! The only sting in the tail was that I had to pay airport excess baggage even though I explained it was for Haiti….. oh, and the other sting was that my suitcases are still stuck in Florida as the plane was over loaded with an American medical team’s supplies. Bah.

So now I am back in Haiti.

It was lovely to fly in over the Bahamas and Caribbean. The flight was only two and a half hours in a 30 seater plane. We had four pilots on board as they were having to fly a lot to Haiti and needed to divide up their flying time so one of them acted as steward! – It was great to get a pilot’s view of the flight and how things had changed in the past 30 years that he had been flying in the Caribbean.

I was met by the hospital administrator, Julian, a very tall slim jovial Haitian, and driven straight to the hospital!Without my suitcases ….

I have to say that I was slightly overwhelmed at the greeting I had from the patients and staff. If the patients had been able to jump up and down with glee they would have done! The rapture of cheers, clapping, laughter and joy was amazing. I went around and hugged every single person.

It really was lovely to be back.

Here begins another stint in Haiti!

For further information: www.haitihospitalappeal.org

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Oh well, I'm glad this tragedy was such a positive experience for st. Fi!

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  • Latterlife Midwife

    So glad you took good care of yourself, Fi. It's the only way you can continue to do the good work you're doing! I've just discovered your blogs and I love reading them. Thanks.

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