Lorie Butler Blogs on Haiti, Nursing, & Faith

Realizing I needed to write in the FIH Blog I was finding it hard to write something when it’s been so long since I’ve been there.  However, being that Nurses’ week approaching us I thought about it and thought that it might be appropriate to talk a little about how my past trips to Haiti inspires my work as a nurse. 

There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t think about the people of Haiti.  Since my first trip there in 2002, Haiti has remained close in my heart.  I’m sure that when some hear Haiti, the thoughts that come to their mind are “hostility”, perhaps “poor” and “earthquake”.  When I think about Haiti, I think of warm, beautiful  people, children playing, smiles that will warm your heart on the coldest day, people that have a heart of gold and a pocket without money and faith in the Lord stronger than any concrete.  On a Sunday morning you can hear the voices from a church singing and praising their Lord and they are so beautiful.  After everything they have been through over the past two years and to have such an incredible belief in their Lord, now that is faith. 

Life to a Haitian is not easy.  Everything is work and hard work at that.  One has to work hard just to eat.  Hard work and hard labor just too perhaps earn or barter some food.  Then they need to either purchase some firewood or go and find some to cook on and still they have to cook the food on the wood which burns like charcoal.  The people of Haiti walk everywhere to obtain their food, their water, to do their wash, to go to school or to work.  Only some are fortunate enough to take a tap-tap (taxi) or own a bike or moped.  The very fortunate might have a beat up car or truck.  Everything is dusty.  Very few places having running water(artisan well) or sewer(septic), sewage  usually runs down the side of the street, the things that you and I take for granted everyday or panic when the power goes off for 1-2 hours, the  people of Haiti have never had these luxuries ever.

To just walk in a Haitian’s shoes for a day, would we be strong enough to do that?  What part of you do you think would actually give in first?  You’re tired feet from all of your walking everywhere? Your tired fatigued body from all your labored work for little to no pay to try to feed your family with or your aching belly that cries in pain from hunger because the last time you had something to eat was yesterday morning and that was only a piece of bread and the day before was a bowl of rice at lunch time.  Or is it the nausea from the sewer that runs down the side of the street that you see and smell.  Haiti has a distinct smell that just never leaves you. 

One might say why go to Haiti………..I say why not?  I go because I can give to people who are so less fortunate than I and just the conversation and sharing of their experience and time I receive from any one person I consider myself blessed to of had that time.   The US dollar goes a lot further to treat more people that have nothing in Haiti.   Nursing in Haiti takes me back to the roots of nursing, where there are the hands on Nursing and you use your assessment skills without relying on technology to figure things out.  Everyone is appreciative and grateful for all you do.  There’s no lengthy documentation to keep us away from our patients either.  We give teaching to our patient’s as well and they listen to every word we have to say so intently.  It is true nursing at its best!   There are times when you feel so good about what you are doing and then once in awhile there is a sad case when despite your best efforts and all your medicine the outcome is grave.  All you have left is faith and prayers so you stop and you pray with the family.  This is nursing. 

It’s been almost five long years since my last venture to Haiti and I’m overdue for a Haitian fix, back to the root of compassion, caring, teaching and real hands on nursing.   I long to walk off that plane and feel that hot sticky air hit me and breathe that familiar smell that tells me I am here to do my work that brings me the greatest satisfaction and joy and really hits home as to why I became a nurse.