Missionary nurse in the jungles of Honduras
Submitted by Erin Pettengill, RN
With our imminent move to an entire other continent, and with new ministries to start, and new “adventures” to seek, I find myself contemplating my time in God’s service over the last 15+ years…and I was reminded of this story…
January 29th, 2010. I stepped my first step onto the devastated streets of Haiti. “The” earthquake had happened…devastation hit. In a few short minutes, the lives of 250,000 people had been cut short. And so my story began.
Part of my DNA is to help people. I have an ever driving need to do it…I can’t look away. A car accident on the side of the road, a sorrowful person at our clinic, whatever the need, my DNA reaches out to that person that I just “need” to help.
So there I was, driving through what looked like the war-torn streets of Haiti, wondering what in the world would I do…how could I possibly be a part of this story? How could “little ol’ me” help?! This is not a story of heroics, not a story of pulling people from rubble or coming to the rescue of someone on the brink of death (although there was plenty of that), this is the story of just being available. I am the pinky finger on the great hand that serves our God…and I go where He calls, and serve how He calls me to serve.
The first week or so our Disaster Relief team served a refugee camp in Port-au-Prince. We brought healing both physically and mentally to people who were living in tents trying to scrape by with what little they could find, or scavenge. The latrine system was much to be desired, the availability of potable water almost non-existent, but persevere our team did. Then, the administrator of a local “hospital” came to us and asked if we would consider helping them. There was a 1970’s hospital that had been abandoned and not in use since the 70’s that the French had taken over during this crisis, but the numbers were overwhelming!!!! In the “hospital” itself there were more than 150 ICU patients lying on mats, or cardboard boxes, or whatever we could find inside the hospital, and 4 times as many patients living in make-shift tents on the perimeter of the hospital. So we agreed…and for the next almost 2 ½ weeks we persevered to make a difference in this place.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I really do try and follow the rules, but sometimes my emotions get the better of me (I won’t even talk about the 2am car ride through the city of Port-au-Prince, while I was manually bagging a patient to keep him alive while we were desperately trying to find a place that had a ventilator so he wouldn’t die…), what I will talk about is the divine appointment I had with one sweet young mom-to-be.
Our team of MTW folks worked the “night shift” – basically that meant working 16 hour shifts from the time the French team left, and we took over. It was rough! Our little team was managing the 150 ICU patients lying on the floor with what medical equipment we could scrounge, or were given. Well…during change of shift one day, all the docs and the nurses went to the front of the hospital to “give report” about what had transpired in the last 16 hours of the night. I looked around the “hospital” and realized that 150 patients were going to be left by themselves, without anyone to watch over them, so I made the decision to stay and be “the” medical person caring for these 150 patients, I couldn’t possibly leave….so I was by myself…in this “hospital”…with only English and Spanish as my language of choice…when in walked a pregnant woman…in ACTIVE labor…and I was there...by myself...
To be continued…