If there was one thing that stands out to MGH Institute School of Nursing alumna Lauryl Smith '07, it was how the collective spirit of the Haitian people remained unbroken in the days following that country’s devastating January 12 earthquake.
Smith, a nurse practitioner in the pediatric department at Boston Medical Center who also works at Dorchester House Multi-Service Center, arrived one week after the disaster and spent five days at Good Samaritan Hospital in the border town of Jimani.
“Their resiliency is unbelievable given what they are facing,” said Smith, who plans to return later in February. “It was remarkable.”
She already had made plans to volunteer at a hospital in the Dominican Republic this spring as part of her work for the Lutheran Church. Because the trip had already been approved, she and her fellow volunteers for LCMS World Relief and Human Care were among the first wave of relief help.
So many patients had already crossed the border by the time she and her team arrived that an adjacent empty orphanage was created into a makeshift hospital to accommodate the need to treat their injuries.
“The first day I got there one paramedic and I took care of more than 50 patients with only one doctor and worked straight through for 24 hours,” she recalled. “It was a tremendous amount of work to keep it going but somehow we managed to do it.”
The number of crushing injuries is what stands out in her mind. Scores of people received external fixators inserted to stabilize their limbs, but it is a care-intensive measure that has a high risk of infection and requires repeat surgery. Many others lost their limbs entirely, including many children.
And she has a message request for MGH Institute students who will be graduating this May. “There’s going to be a tremendous need for nurses and physical therapists for a long time to come, so they should think about going if they have the opportunity,” she said.