~ HAITI HAS STOLEN MY HEART ~
Ever since I can remember I wanted to become a nurse. Looking back at my yearbook from my senior year of high school, each student wrote a statement of who and what they wanted to become. My statement said, “I want to be a nurse.” Many years later, after other careers, I am fulfilling what I was put on the earth to do. I knew after becoming a nurse and practicing in a hospital that I needed to reach out to others in different parts of the world.
People for Haiti appeared to be the perfect opportunity. I know the founder, Dr. Leo Vieira, and knew I would be well taken care of for my very first mission trip. Making the concrete decision to go took me about a year of contemplation. I finally signed up for the organization’s 22nd trip to Haiti. I knew I wanted to have a medicine drive to help with medicine needs of the Haitian people.
Being a nurse, what a better group of people to be around but other nurses! My co-workers really pitched in and supported by efforts. My son, Logan, also played an integral part in my fundraising. Logan turned 11 years old this past May. His father and I threw him a big birthday bash here at home. He knew I was trying to collect medicine for the upcoming trip so he came up and told me when we were making up the invites that he did not want birthday gifts.
I asked why and he told me that he wanted his friends to bring medicine to his party for the kids in Haiti. How awesome is that!! I am truly blessed!
Arriving in Haiti was nothing like I expected. Guiga & Dr. Lisa Phelps told me many stories about their trips but one must go there to truly understand the definition of what poverty really means. Arriving at the Cabaret Baptist Children’s Orphanage was overwhelming! The children that live there are more beautiful than I can explain in words! I was no longer nervous or scared…I knew why I was there.
Children melted on me, the sights and sounds were different, and I felt most welcomed. The children were pulling me from both sides to play, and another wanted to show me the playground, and another wanted me to play soccer, and another just wanted to be held. The picture of the little boy in my arms is Luke. He has made insurmountable strides since he came to the orphanage.
Luke and his sister were in grave condition when they arrived to the orphanage. With the medical treatments from the teams from People for Haiti and the love of Mike and Bonnie at the orphanage, Luke is a vibrant little guy who has burrowed his way into my heart, as well as everyone he touches.
Clinic days were the three most rewarding nursing days of my ten year career in nursing so far! Parents with their children waiting in line for hours; waiting for basic care, vitamins, and antibiotics to fight some of the simplest infections in 100 degree heat. During this trip the team cared for 1,340 patients. Each clinic day passed so quickly.
I worked triage with Christine and Lydia both who are very experienced nurses that supported me and provided guidance in working in such remote conditions. When clinic days were done the entire group would get together for an end-of-day photo. Each person has the most genuine, fulfilling smile just knowing what a difference each person made in other people’s lives.
I have never felt like this before. Usually after a 12 hour shift at the hospital I am exhausted. Not here…I wanted to keep going, I needed to keep going.
Many moments are resonating in my head, but one moment I will carry with me a lifetime. During our second clinic day I was getting ready to grab my lunch for a quick bite and I was sitting in an open door way on the floor looking out onto the mountain side. There was commotion down the hill leading into the valley. A few of the interpreters were asking some of the villagers what was going on.
They wanted to make sure there was not a fight breaking out. One of our interpreters came back and said that a family was burying their child. Mid-morning on a hot day, no casket, and no funeral like you and I know of. I sat there looking up to the sky thinking will this every change? I found the strength to gather my emotions and walk back into the triage room where people needed me. I could not think of a better place to be at that moment…
I had reached a point in my nursing career that frightened me. I was starting to question my purpose and my love of nursing back here at home. This trip could not have come at a better time in my life. After caring for people here at home who have so much, I traveled to Haiti and experienced true poverty where people have nothing. No medicine, no food, and children eating dirt, no water, and no clothes…basic needs that you and I take for granted. I entered into this trip thinking I was going there to help the Haitian people. But in turn Haiti has helped me. How do I explain that?
My purpose has been redefined…I have recaptured passion and drive for my profession. I came home a very different person. I told my husband in a text message before I left Haiti that he had a different wife coming home, but one that he would love even more! This trip, these people, this team has changed my life. How do I thank each and every one of these people for who I have become in these short five days?
I am in love with Haiti and the Haitian people. I have caught the “Haiti Bug” as Guiga said. I am so glad I did. This will not be my last trip. This is just the beginning…
Gina McCabe, RN, BSN ~ September 2013 Team