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Chicago Nurses Dealt with Devastation in Haiti

For two days, Mary Gomez, RN, MSN, APN, had been concerned for 23 colleagues who were working with the Little by Little Haiti medical mission group and were trapped after Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the country.

Gomez, a nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, was in Haiti in January 2009 with a team representing Little by Little, which is based in Glenview, Ill.

The group that was in Haiti when the earthquake struck Tuesday included nurse practitioners, nursing students and support staff. They were scheduled to fly home the day following the earthquake after a weeklong trip to Haiti. Instead, the volunteers were offering care to disaster victims without knowing when they would be able to leave the country.

“The team is intact and well,” said Gomez, who had been getting occasional updates from her colleagues via Facebook and blog postings. “I’m just worried. … I want them home with their families.”

Damage to buildings in numerous cities in Haiti is commonplace after Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

Gomez has seen the conditions many people in Haiti live in every day.

“There are no building codes,” Gomez said. “People use the materials they have.”

The same living conditions Gomez saw last year likely caused many homes and buildings to fall “like a house of cards,” she said.

When working in Haiti, the Little by Little teams are hosted by Indiana native Beth Charles and her husband, Willem, who is a native of Haiti.

The Charles family runs Mountain Top Ministries in Petionville, Haiti, which is located about 15 miles southeast of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The clinic where Little by Little teams work is located two miles from Petionville, in the mountain town of Gramothe. Nurses from Children’s Memorial have been part of seven Little by Little teams that have gone to Haiti since 2006, Gomez said.

Among the current group, four of the team members are from Children’s Memorial and seven are from the Glenview area, Gomez said.

Since the earthquake, Gomez said the team cared for more than 200 victims.

Because the Little by Little group was finishing its visit, it had few supplies remaining when the earthquake struck.

“Their supplies were depleted,” Gomez said. “They were at the end of their week.”

The team usually helps patients with skin infections, gastrointestinal problems and nutritional support.

“We don’t bring trauma supplies,” Gomez said. “They can only make due with what they have.”

That has included using broomsticks for splints and also tearing up scrubs to use as bandages.

The most obvious need right now for the Haitian people, Gomez said, is funding.

“The military is still in search-and-rescue mode,” she said. “They’re trying to offload humanitarian aid like food and water and some medical supplies.”

The Little by Little team will continue to offer aid to local victims and keep friends and family back home updated with messages on Facebook groups such as “Little by Little Medical Mission Haiti” and a blog on the Mountain Top Ministries’ Web site at that includes notes from the Charles family and photos of the Little by Little volunteers caring for victims.

“They’re trying to be as judicious as possible with their outgoing messages,” Gomez said, citing the inconsistent ability for the team to communicate. “They’re just getting occasional signals.”

Barry Bottino is a regional editor for Nursing Spectrum.

By | 2020-04-15T14:10:21-04:00 January 25th, 2010|Categories: National|0 Comments

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