Nursing home employees offer help in Haiti

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[Photo by Matthew Marek/American Red Cross]

Seeing the devastation in Haiti “was emotionally destroying for me,” said Ginette Sangosse, assistant director of nursing for the Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in Bronx, NY. Sangosse, who grew up in Haiti, returned last week to provide medical care.

The earthquake that rocked Haiti has also affected the U.S. nursing home community, which employs large numbers of Haitians. Two medical professionals from Beth Abraham, Sangosse and Dr. Yvonne Jean-Francois, recently traveled with Haitian organizations to help.

Sangosse, who has lived in the U.S. for more than 40 years, spent a week—from Saturday, Jan. 16, to Friday, Jan. 22—at the hospital in Port-au-Prince.

There in the capital city she witnessed “the complete destruction of the town I knew so well,” she told me.

Buildings had crumbled. She saw several dead bodies in the street.

“A lot of us could not stop crying and it was very hard,” said Sangosse, who traveled with the organization Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad.

The hospital where she worked the night shift was missing equipment, personnel and supplies. There were times when the staff worked in the dark, she said.

Working 16-to-18 hour days, she delivered babies, performed wound care services and delivered food and drinks. Nearly all of the patients were amputees “with big wounds and a lot of pain also,” she said.

“I had never seen things like that before because people were crying because they were in pain,” she explained. “They didn't know where their loved ones were.”

She came with 54 other nurses and doctors. They helped establish a post-op ward. When they arrived, there were not enough nurses to take care of the post-op patients and the wounded had just spent a night by themselves. 

More people were working outside the building, she said. Many of the patients, who had been evacuated, did not want to return to the hospital for fear of another earthquake.

Despite her sadness, she also felt proud how well patients behaved at the hospital. No one was looting, she said.

Now that she is back, “I am more depressed … because at least while I was there I was able to help,” said Sangosse, whose great-great aunt, 98, died during the disaster.

She plans to return soon to the area where she received her First Communion and where her mother's childhood house stood.

“Words cannot describe how I felt,” she said.

Stay tuned for more stories of outreach from the nursing home community to Haiti.


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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.