A surgical team from The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City hit the ground running Jan. 20 upon arriving at National Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Michael McCarry, RN, senior vice president of perioperative services, and Kimmarie Hammond, RN, ANP-C, senior clinical manager of the advanced heart failure and cardiac transplant program, were among the nurses and physicians who provided surgical assistance to those in need after the Jan. 12 earthquake.
When we first got there, people outside the hospital were telling each other, Dont go in the hospital because theyll cut your leg off, McCarry says. The surgeons did perform some amputations on that first day, but only because there was no other choice. Due to gangrene, it was either lose a limb or lose a life.
The team also treated those with injuries that werent directly caused by the earthquake, which, Hammond says, she hadnt really thought about. There were injuries from motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds, she says. We treated a woman who had suffered burns from a propane explosion. We didnt think about any of those kinds of injuries until we were there.Kimmarie Hammond, RN, far right, with the PACU nurses, from left, Junie Jeudy-Cox, RN, Beth Israel, ICU; Kathleen Ashby, RN, Mount Sinai, OB/GYN; Armando De Guzman, RN, Mount Sinai Queens, ER; and Jeanne Ambroise, RN, Mount Sinai surgical nurse.
McCarry says they only brought half the team to the hospital on the first day to assess the situation and set up logistics, so that on the second day the entire team would be ready.
The second day brought lots of skin grafting, debridements and application of plaster of paris, McCarry says. Although there was no one there with patients the first night except the families, says Hammond, there was a doctor with the patients in the evening during the second night, and things slowly began to progress.
During the following days, personnel from Boston and other New York hospitals arrived, and the chief nurses decided to merge resources, McCarry says. Our team built the supply model and the sterilization process, he says. The surgical teams initially began with full trays for the first few days surgeries, then purposely downsized the trays to include just four clamps, two forceps, a needle holder, scissors and a disposable scalpel.
Our chief surgeon got together with their chief surgeons, and we built an orthopedic service, since they didnt have one set up, McCarry says.The team used Post-it notes to keep surgeries straight. McCarry says a black Sharpie was a necessity.
The nurses who helped with recovery formed an alliance, as well. There were nurses from NYU, Beth Israel and Mount Sinai Queens, and although we were from different disciplines, we blended, Hammond says. The PACU nurses were so dedicated that, at the end of the day, they were the last ones on the bus, she says.
Once a patient went to the OR, someone else would come and wed have to find a place for the other patient when they came back, she says. We werent leaving until every patient was taken care of. We didnt want to leave them, and we didnt want to leave one another.
McCarry says more than 120 patients were being treated in the forest the wooded area outside the hospital because people were afraid to be indoors. As more supplies came in, the accommodations changed from tarps and sheets to tents, and you could see the patients faces transform. In the evening, the silence among those tents was truly humbling, McCarry says. It was truly a nursing world. More than half our team was nurses. The surgeons admitted that that made the difference.
For a photo gallery of the Mount Sinai trip, visit www.Nurse.com/gallery/MountSinai/Haiti.