The last time I published an entry from Heidi’s diary I told you that I didn’t know who she was, I only knew that she was a pastor’s daughter serving as a volunteer on a medical mission to Haiti. Since then I have learned that her name is Heidi Ennenbach, and that she is a registered nurse from Columbia, Missouri. I will post the final entry from her diary here, and include some additional information below, for those who want to know more. Heidi has been an inspiration to me, and a regular reminder of those who are still suffering in Haiti.
I have learned that there are many reading these emails. I had no idea the impact they would make. I wanted to share these things with my family because I am not good at giving details. I feel compelled to finish this “diary” even though now I am home safe. Today I got to worship with my congregation and I couldn’t stop crying. The images and stories from my experience in Haiti will forever be with me. I was thinking of my patients and their families as I looked around the rows of chairs at church today. Each person with family and friends surrounding them. Then my minister spoke to me. I felt like he picked me out of the crowd. I will tell you why before this email is finished.
I left off Late Friday night. Friday was so so busy. I didn’t understand busy until Saturday came. We were down to 7 nurses. 7 of us to care for 300 people (not including their exhausted and starving family members/friends). We were busting at the seams with patients. The mayor granted us another school in the area as well as the community nutrition center. We moved all the pediatric patients to one location and set up rooms in the schools with the most acutely ill patients in the nearest room and the other patients that were doing better (I use that term so loosely) were in the rooms further away from the supply center. Saturday was like the worst episode of M.A.S.H. you could imagine. Black Hawk helicopters at a steady pace, the sirens of the amublances, and the chaos of hundreds of people scattering to get out of the way. As we got more victims from Port-Au-Prince I wondered when this will slow down and when they will have all the patients placed.
I was busy in the recovery area and ICU. There were so many patients needing help I enlisted the help of the anesthesiologists. I asked them to recover their surgery patients in the operating rooms because there were no beds left. I had 3-4 patients lying on beds and there were no monitors to make sure they were breathing/oxegenating ok after their surgeries. In the meantime I was medicating patients for pain and trying to get them the antibiotics they needed. We were again out of supplies and I was calling for help on the hand held radio for someone to bring gloves, alcohol, and syringes. Everyone was so busy that I had to leave the patients unattended to run to the hospital and go through 100 boxes to find the supplies I needed. Fortunately when I returned everyone was ok. I was giving blood to two patients who had the lowest blood counts I have ever seen. Some with a hemoglobin of 2. In the midst of all that I went to the ICU to get some medication. At that time I saw a 6 year old boy and he was going down hill quickly. I helped the other nurse as she intubated the patient. He was in bad shape with a blood sugar over 400. He was not breathing well enough on his own and we needed to get him on a chopper quickly in order to get him to the ship. (The ship is called the COMFORT; it is a floating ICU). We heard a chopper coming in and radioed down to the doctor on the landing strip to see if the helicopter would take him to the ship. They agreed but said we had to be on the chopper in 2 minutes. We were yelling commands at anyone who could help us. We ran with him on the stretcher to the ambulance. We had no oxygen because the only oxygen tanks we had were huge and probably weighed 200-300 pounds. We rushed to the helicopter to find that they had no oxygen. I knew that this child was going to die without oxygen for 45 minutes (the time it takes to fly to the ship). There was heated discussion, all of us so angry. We knew how to save him but we didn’t have a ventilator. We knew he needed oxygen but didn’t have it available. We knew that if he lived to get on the ship he would have a chance. It didn’t matter what we knew. It didn’t matter that we had the skills. We didn’t have the materials. When we put him back on the ambulance he arrested. We were driving on a road with 3 foot pot holes doing chest compressions in the back of an ambulance. Trying to keep our balance. I was holding all his IV fluids, I stumbled and fell on the nurse doing chest compressions. It was total chaos and I couldn’t hold back my tears. I quickly had to regain composure: he needed us. We rushed him back to the ICU and someone found his father. He had a sketchy cardiac rhythm, he barely had a pulse, the Haitian anesthesiologist I told you about was there and he was telling the boy’s father that he was not going to make it. The father said “this is up to God.” He prayed fervently, loudly, he put his hands on this baby’s chest and prayed that God would put breath back in him. He prayed loudly in the boy’s ear to breathe and be alive. Two of the man’s friends were laying hands on this little body and praying. I held the boys hand as they continued with chest compressions. I knew the boy was not going to make it. After his prayer we stopped compressions. I was sobbing, the other nurse was sobbing, the doctor was sobbing, and the 3 Haitian men began to sing a song….and I recognized it. I began to sing with them but in English. They were singing “Burdens are lifted at Calvary.” I sang and sobbed all at the same time. I imagined the face of my son Will. I put myself in the shoes of this father. Helpless, traumatized, and experiencing such loss. He lifted this up to God, he was smiling, he said “God’s will has been done.” I hugged him….I hugged him for me. I needed to feel that comfort.
I shouldn’t have left the hospital but I did. I walked the street by myself for about 40 minutes. The flood gates of emotions were opened. I couldn’t stop crying and asking God why this had happened. I didn’t know why it was me that he chose to send. I felt so helpless. I wanted to save this baby that had his whole life ahead of him. He had a mom and dad that were alive. I just couldn’t understand it. I in no way felt better but I was able to compose myself and returned to taking care of the patients. I finished working around midnight that night. I was so exhausted emotionally and physically. My body hurt, I was dehydrated and had a horrible migraine. I needed to sleep for just a few hours.
Friday at some point (I can’t remember what time). I got word that a very wealthy business man had agreed to get in his jet and fly to Haiti to pick us up. I was so relieved to know that we had a guaranteed ride home. I was so thrilled and so looking forward to a break and to be home with my family but in minutes that joy turned to extreme sorrow and guilt. How could I leave these people here? I know that other groups will be coming and that someone will pick up where I left off but I knew these people now and I knew their story. I went to bed that night and for the first time did not fall asleep when my head hit the pillow. I replayed all the horrible graphic pictures in my head and I saw their faces. I wanted to load them all up and take them home with me. I could get them medical care at home. I could get them specialists. I could feed them. And then I remembered what another nurse said to me earlier in the week. If we were not here they would be dead. Even though I did so little and the job was not done, they were alive.
I told you that today my minister Mark Butrum spoke to me. It’s amazing how God gives you situations in your life that drive home His word. It cements scripture in your own heart. The sermon today was on service in a series of sermons called “Thrive” being as close to God as you want to be. Two passages today spoke to me and I will share them with you. Even though I felt like I did so little, I did what I could. Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not men.” You may feel pulled to do something to help these people but have no medical training. Maybe you have a jet that you could fly a team to Haiti? Maybe you are connected with a company that makes supplies? Maybe you have money to send to the hospital? Maybe you can pray? “Whatever it is that you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not men.” If you feel compelled to help I will be sending a website to you. This organization gives 98.9% of all donations straight to the hospital, I have seen it with my own eyes. They are providing free medical care and they are emptying their shelves of medicines every day. When I secure this site I will send it to you in hopes that you will make a donation. This effort will be in motion for many months to come. They are making accommodations to provide care to 1,000 people!
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit if any tenderness and compassion then make my joy complete by being like-minded having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:1-11
The organization Heidi mentioned in her diary (above) is the Crudem Foundation (www.Crudem.org). She says, “Please feel confident that your donation is being used carefully and it is reaching these people. Also I am looking for volunteers as we are planning more trips to Haiti. You must be a registered nurse with a current license. You must have 5 years experience in the acute care setting. ICU experience is preferred. If interested please email me at email@example.com