A U.S. Volunteer Nurse Helps in Haiti After Earthquake
Gene McCoy is the Sr. Minister of the Memorial Christian Church in Mt. Home, AR. His oldest daughter, Heidi, is a nurse and has gone to Haiti to serve with a medical team. She was written her folks several times, which I have shared via email. Of course, there are some of you who have not read these notes.
Please listen. This is someone who is living and working in the face of terrible human suffering.
HEIDI: You just would not believe the things I have seen people everywhere with missing limbs. 2 babies died today. One man died with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) bc they ran out of heparin. Our team brought heparin. They are sick and lying on stretchers and bleeding. One nurse broke down today and said that last Tuesday they were just cutting people limbs off that were crushed and they had nowhere to dispose of the body parts so they stacked them in front of the hospital for days. When the smell became too much someone took care of them. These people are young, younger than me. I haven’t seen an old person yet. Average life expectancy is 51. I feel so horrible. They don’t have what they need and we are watching them die.
The nurses in Haiti are terrible. They don’t know how to care for their patients. I have worked since we arrived at 2 with a short break to eat at 8. I went back to check on my ICU patient’s and the nurse that was caring for them was fast asleep. I am learning pediatrics quickly. So many babies are sick. Some patients don’t have food to eat. The hospital cannot feed them so if family does not bring food they simply do not eat. I don’t even want to eat. The smells and sights have been overwhelming. It is so primitive and I have to be creative with supplies. Today I made a tourniquet with a rubber glove as I pinned whaling 9 year old down. They shaved skin from her thigh to graft skin to the lower section of her leg. She left the OR with no IV access.
I had to get a line in her to medicate her. Her parents were nowhere to be found. I wanted to talk to her to calm her but I can’t understand the language. Even those fluent in French say it is no help. The Creole and slang is way too different. I finally took a shower. It was a slow drip and cold, but it was water. I have sweat all day. The hospital is a humid and hot building. I think my comfort at this point is so menial. Pray for us that more supplies will arrive. We are in desperate need of medicines. Pray that I can be quick on my feet. Pray that my headache will go away and that the nausea will stop.
I love you all. I will try to keep in touch. Heidi
Another quick note. The past 24 hours we have seen so much. Last night I was nursing a 19-year-old girl with deep leg wounds. She was full of infection and septic. She was fighting to breath. We gave her everything we could. Oxygen, fluid, antibiotics, anti-virals. We fought for her life. I was at her bedside continuously with the doctor. Starting 3 IVs and pumping fluids into her just to keep her blood pressure up. After 2 hours she lost her battle. It was devastating. Her brother was hysterical at the bedside. We had to medicate him. Then as I was trying to leave to go to bed at about midnight another boy approached me. His sister’s IV stopped running. I looked at her and could tell she was becoming septic.
You would not believe that even with all the horror, sickness, and devastation....the people here are smiling. They are waiving. They want to hold my hand. They want me to take their picture. They seem so happy we are here. They are so appreciative for the care, even though we cannot do everything we want to do.
Pray for these people. The ones who have open wounds and amputations are developing high fevers. Without treatment they will die. They are lying on stretchers on dirt. The odds for them are not good. On top of that they are in extreme pain. We are doing our best to keep them comfortable. There are 40 of us and 300 of them.
Thanks to all of you for sending me. I am honored to be here. I can only do a little but it is something. Heidi
Since I worked until after 4 a.m. today another nurse said he would cover ICU for me for a while while I tried to sleep. It’s hard to sleep. I wake up thinking of everything that has to be done. The way it is now there are so many medications that have to be given and there are not enough nurses to get that done.
The biggest concern was that they are hungry. We were able to get rice and beans and some oatmeal for the ones who were hungry. Here in Haiti it is normal to only eat one meal a day. I’m sure there is some variety but it always appears to me to be the same. Some sort of mixture of rice and beans and spices. We did our best to get everyone fed.
There is another girl here who had cinder blocks fall on her face. Her face is so badly fractured and she has not eaten for days.
Today doctors put a tube in her belly that goes straight to the stomach. We received a donation of baby formula and we are using that to give her nutrition. She will also see the plastic surgeon to see if her jaw can be re-attached so that she will be able to eat at some point. The earthquake may be over but these people will be suffering for a long time to come.
I will leave you with this positive image. Tonight around ten it got pretty quiet at the ER. I was still rounding and checking on patients. The sound became louder and louder as each room joined in. The people were singing songs of praise to God. I just stopped and listened. It lightened my load. Through all this suffering and pain and confusion and chaos...they are praising our God.
WOW! It brought me to tears and reminded me that when I feel down about my situation/circumstances I have to remember that I am chosen and am victorious!!! Love you and miss you. Heidi
Here’s another: In my opinion today has been the worst day yet. Today I got a chance to get to know my patients in the ICU. I’m taking care of a little boy with a skull fracture. His 12-year-old brother sits at his bedside. He doesn’t know that his parents are dead. The 12 year old and this little boy are all alone. The 12 year old is so stoic. He feeds his brother and lies in bed with him. He is sleeping outside the hospital on the ground. Today I gave him some water and he was so appreciative.
Another girl, the one I wrote about a few nights ago. She had the arm amputation. She was going downhill when her brother asked me about her IV. She is doing so much better today. Her brother speaks some English. He was outside the ICU today and he was also caring for other patients. He told me that one of the patients was hungry. I didn’t have any food to give him but I knew of a place down the road that sold beans and rice. I asked the interpreter what it would cost to get him some food and something to drink. I asked the interpreter to see what he wanted to eat because there was also some sort of pasta dish.
He was stunned that I would ask and would not accept me buying him food. It was going to cost $1.00 to feed him. I gave him $2.and he was overwhelmed.
He hugged me and said thank you. About 2 hours later an anesthesiologist came to find me...he is practicing in STL but is from Haiti. He had the brother with him. He said "this guy has been bugging me for hours to come and find you so that I could tell you how thankful he is for you and that you saved his sister’s life and that you cared about him too. He said God Bless you and the Americans for coming to help us."
I hugged him and wanted to cry...but I was working and had to hold my emotion. I feel so guilty that in two days I will leave these people...and they will be here. Poor, hungry, without family and a home.
Another girl in the ICU is late 20s I would guess. She had crush injury to the abdomen. All along she has had an older man I would guess to be 70 at her bedside. He bathes her, wipes her bottom, puts her on the bedpan, feeds her, and gives her water. He lies on the concrete floor next to her bed. Today we went to transfer her to regular hospital. He gathered her things and I went to hug him. The interpreter was there and I told him what a wonderful father he was. He told me that he is not related to her but that she needed help and he was healthy to help her. It broke me. I can’t say anything but that.
There is a psychiatrist here named Jeff. We have bonded on this trip just talking about life. He was at Ground Zero when the towers came down. He was choked up and handed me a tiny wrinkled piece of paper. It was a note from a little girl in the pediatric unit that he has spending time with each day. She too is an orphan because of the earthquake. The note, in perfect English and in neat cursive handwriting said, "Hi Jeff How are you? It’s Edwine. I am fatherless. I appreciate you for a father. I would like to go with you? I am waiting for your answer." Edwine
From a sermon by Steve Shepherd, "In the Face of Human Suffering," 2/3/2010
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