The Most Rewarding Week Ever

by Amanda Rideout

On November 19, 2016 myself along with 18 other health care providers embarked on a journey that would change our outlook on health care for the rest of our careers. Being an Emergency Room Nurse with 13 years experience, there was nothing that could have prepared me for the most rewarding week ever.

Dr. Steve Croft, an Orthopaedic Surgeon working in Corner Brook, Newfoundland made a goal to send the first Team Broken Earth from the Western Region of Newfoundland to Port-aux-Prince, Haiti. The planning started in the spring of 2016, and he put together an amazing group of health care professionals. Dr. Croft had the opportunity to be part of a team in the past so he was able to share his experiences with us, and try to prepare us for our coming journey.

Haiti is a country that is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake that destroyed so much of what the Haitians called their own. It is such a beautiful place, but it has an ongoing battle with poverty and lack of resources. Travelling to Port-aux-Prince for one week doesn’t seem like a lot when you think of the level of need in a country like this, however we were able to accomplish so much in one week. We all left with a great sense of satisfaction that we will hold with us for many years to come.

We hit the ground running when we arrived at Bernard Mevs, the local trauma hospital and our lodging in downtown Port-aux-Prince. It was a busy week filled with multiple polytraumas, most needing surgeries to fix multiple fractures. We had to adjust to working in an emergency situation where things that we take for granted each day were not available to us. At times we even struggled to find basic medial supplies like IV lines and suture supplies. Physicians had to assess patients and make life saving decisions using their medical knowledge and expertise, but without the use of easily accessible instruments at home like CT and MRI scanners, ventilators, and certain blood tests.

Much like other Broken Earth teams that had travelled to Haiti before us, we were able to provide great resources while we were there. We provided services to the Haitians that began in the Emergency Room, and continued to the Operating Room, and Medical and Intensive Care Units. Heather Burke, our Physiotherapist, worked diligently all over the hospital, Dr. Scott Mackenzie, a General Surgeon, had his skills in high demand as he worked side by side with the local surgeons, and all of our team members gave such an incredible effort to give whatever we could in our time there.

Along with providing hands on clinical care, our group also had the opportunity to provide education to the staff of Bernard Mevs hospital. Being an emergency room nurse and an instructor in various lifesaving courses, I was able to share my knowledge with the staff. Myself along with several other physicians from our team were able to teach basic and advanced cardiac life support to local health professionals. We completed basic airway management and CPR stations. Translators were provided to help with the language barrier. It was something I’ll never forget and I would love the opportunity to be able to provide this teaching again. On top of these life saving courses, our Orthopaedic Surgeons had the opportunity to teach local Orthopaedic Residents as well. They were able to travel to a separate teaching hospital and take part in ward rounds, as well as give some great presentations to the group. The level of interest shown by the Haitians was incredible, and they were so keen on learning. It’s such a rewarding feeling when you are teaching people who are hungry to learn and try to absorb every bit of knowledge that you can share with them.

We worked in conditions that many would not be able to imagine possible, but we did it, and we made a difference to many people. Friendships were made, and I think each one of us came back with a new appreciation for what we have in our lives. My advice to anyone who has the opportunity to be part of such an amazing group is to take it and make every minute count.

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