Even though I was disappointed last summer that I could not go back to Haiti to assist in running a Medical Clinic in Leogane (epi-enter of the 2010 earthquake) due to breast cancer treatments, a part of me realized that I was not up for the challenge like I had been eight times before!
However, this summer, with cancer behind me, I rose to the occasion and enlisted my services for the ninth time to work at The Clinic at Petite Riviere, Leogane, with The Rasin Foundation based outside of Boston. I dragged along a Behavior Therapist friend, who served as my ‘Dossier’, or ‘Assistant’ and spent five days at the clinic, seeing hundreds of patients. With the help of our bodyguard and Creole-translator, Pele, and the newly-built clinic and donated supplies and medications, we were able to sustain health to this population of babies and adults – at least for one week while we were there – seeing everything from scabies to malaria to suspicious breast lumps. Hopefully, more volunteers will go weekly, although there are weeks that go by when no one, but the Haitian nurse, can fill this role.
I greatly advise anyone – Nurses, Teachers, Therapists – anyone who can give, to have this kind of experience. It is enlightening and inspiring. After all, it’s all in a day’s work. Reach out and help someone else; you will be helping yourself.
Let me tell you, that despite the extreme heat, humidity, lack of electricity, bugs, and filthy conditions everywhere, there is nothing as rewarding as doing this kind of work. As a School Nurse, I lack and miss the ‘hospital’ experiences and this kind of work affords great fulfillment in this area. Without a physician present, we used our common sense, knowledge of the language, school nursing, mission trip experience, and iPhone apps, to make this experience once again a successful venture for both myself and the under-served Haitian population, still undergoing trauma from the devastating earthquake years ago.
About the author
Nurse Pam Barnes, RN, CSN-NJ, M.Ed. is the school nurse at The Children’s Institute in New Jersey. Barnes has served as a school nurse for 18 years, and is one year removed from her breast cancer diagnosis.