"There was no other option, I had to go." Haitian-born nurse Nadia Raymond describes her decision to volunteer in post-quake Haiti as "automatic."
On three separate trips with Partners in Health, Nadia, who is based in Massachusetts, joined a group of medical professionals lending their expertise to the disaster response efforts. Her team often stood in for Haitian medical workers who were themselves still reeling from the damage.
"Because of the massive earthquake, a lot of the hospital in Port Au Prince was damaged," she said. "Some of the nurses there had lost homes and families and for a little while the hospital was abandoned. We took over staffing, we worked the night shifts."
The team worked around the clock to contend with the vast level of need.
"As long as the nurses can go, they're very open to whatever is needed out of them," she said. "It's hard work, it takes a lot of out you and you come back really feeling depleted in every way. But you want to do more. It's totally worth it."
Though she is a veteran nurse, Nadia was still taken aback by the extent of trauma in Haiti.
"I was taking care of people that were so displaced, that had lost everything, that were crying every day not even knowing where they were going to go if they ever left the hospital, people with babies who'd been killed that we couldn't even tell them--two or three weeks after it had happened and we couldn't even tell them."
She remembers one woman in particular, a 23-year-old woman whose legs had both been crushed and was already suffering from sickness.
"She was getting worse and worse and we had to send her to the hospital. Her three or six-month-old baby had died in the earthquake, she said. "She didnt know that. She thought the baby was in another hospital. Every time I go back I look to see where she is. I just wanted to follow up and see--I'm sure by now she has found out."
Reflecting on the progress in Haiti over the past year, Nadia is more optimistic than some-- she recalls the individual stories of hope.
"When you see a patient that was near death in the beginning and you go back and see them walking and doing well...that's progress," she said. "As much as you wish everything could be up and running."
And while things may not return to the way they were, people are learning to cope with their present circumstances.
"You can see people are learning to live with prosthesis. There is life after you lose a limb," she said. "When I went back I saw a lot of people doing well, and smiling, you know, life goes on."
Nadia's outlook on her own life has been changed by what she has seen.
"I think it just makes you more aware of yourself and how you live...things that would upset you before, it's not such a big deal," she said. "You look at your family with new eyes, you look at what you have with new eyes. When I was in Haiti there was very little--I was sleeping in a cot, I was sleeping on the floor, I was sleeping in a tent, which I had really never experienced, yet I survived."
Even her outlook around the hospital has altered.
"I know its bad and I'm not claiming I'm walking in your shoes," she said of her attitude towards patients. "But you're here, you're breathing, and we'll take it one step at a time."
For more, visit our Third World America section.
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