Monday, January 17, 2011


Haitian mission changed our lives

Somehow, despite all we saw while in Haiti Jan. 9-14, I was able to keep my emotions in check. It must be the nurse in me.

We didn’t treat as many children as we expected, but that might be because the very old and very young died before reaching us. We felt like we were in a race against time — and this horrible disease. We would squeeze IV bags as hard as we could to push the fluid in — all while hearing the fluid pour out of them in the form of deadly diarrhea.

But when I was singing at church on Sunday, the dam finally broke — I couldn’t stop the flood of tears. I’m still not sure it has really hit me yet.

Our local team of medical professionals helped a lot of people during our mission. We all did our part to help — and what we saw while there impacted us in various ways.

To communicate to others we set up a Backus Haiti Relief Team Facebook page. It chronicled our journey, and also probably served as an emotional outlet for many of us.

Here are some day-by-day Facebook posts:

• Jan. 9: “So, our first task on arrival yesterday afternoon was to unload a trailer full of supplies…we saw many patients that would be in a Critical Care Unit at home, but are being cared for in tents and portable buildings here.”

— Fred Potter, Backus Hospital Emergency Medical Services Coordinator

• Jan. 10: “We’re all starting our first shifts today. We’ve had some great recoveries in the cholera hospital. This disease is severely debilitating, but we’re working as a team to assist in any way possible. Spirits are high and the work is difficult, but very rewarding. I’m so proud to be a member of this medical mission.”

— Manuela Lescault, registered nurse and Backus Nurse Residency Coordinator

• Jan. 11: Wow…that’s all I can say. We just got off of our first full shift…eight hours felt like 16! In addition to taking to taking care of several patients, including a woman that died, we did aggressive fluid resuscitations for two patients…so far, so good for them.”

— Fred Potter

• Jan. 12: Finished another exhausting shift today at the cholera hospital. We ended the evening with a visit to St. Damien’s children’s hospital to give toys to the beautiful children there. It’s really difficult not to cry, but the children’s smiles are worth the entire effort here!”

— Manuela Lescault

• Jan. 13: “We’re all very pleased with what we’ve been able to do here – we have made a difference in several peoples’ lives. As a great friend of mine told me, ‘this trip will be good for your soul.’ I couldn’t have said it any better.”

— Fred Potter

• Jan. 14: “I am so proud and grateful to have been part of the Backus relief mission to Haiti. I am very fortunate to have shared this experience with such a fantastic team of people. Thank you all for the unforgettable memories and friendships.”

— Cassandra Gryczewski, Backus Hospital registered nurse

Cindy Arpin, is a registered nurse and Stroke Coordinator at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Arpin or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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