Remembering Haiti

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

There have been a multitude of reasons that I haven't posted lately. One of them I'll share sometime in the weeks/months to come, the others I've already named one too many times (residency applications/boards/traveling). I've also found that I have less desire lately to post about superficial things. I've found myself less interested in reading my normal daily style blogs and in shopping (a good thing). This doesn't mean that I won't still be sharing the occasional outfit post, just that I'm feeling the urge to write about more if I'm going to keep this little space on the internet here's what has been on my heart lately.

I have written next to nothing about my experience these last two months in the ER. It's been a good two months, very educational of course and interesting. The same things that attracted me to work in the E.D. as a nurse still hold true: the variety, the occasional excitement, and the ability to comfort people at vulnerable points of their lives. Contrary to many who work in emergency rooms though, I don't love traumas. I saw terrible trauma during my work in Haiti and seeing trauma here reminds me of that. Especially last Saturday.

*Some details changed to preserve patient privacy*

Saturday was one of those completely chaotic days in the ER, starting with a medical code where we lost a patient in her 50s, continuing with a child that had to take a life-flight out to a bigger hospital with neurosurgery after we diagnosed a brain bleed, and culminating with a little boy coming in with a horrific facial wound after a devastating accident. I tried to comfort the boy and his family as much as I could but there wasn't much that I could do after the plastic surgeon started to repair his face. It was awful. His cries brought me back to Haiti and this little boy, who I will never forget.

He was only eight, but he seemed much older than that. He had lost his parents in the earthquake weeks earlier, and in the meantime had suffered weeks with a facial wound sustained in the earthquake that extended into his eye. The physical wounds were devastating, but the emotional wounds from losing his parents ran much deeper. Over the next days that I spent in Haiti, I would go and sit with him in the pediatrics tent after finishing my E.R. shift.

His story ends somewhat happily though: several months after I returned from Haiti I was flipping through a nurse friend from college's Haiti pictures. This friend had volunteered with the U.S.S. Comfort, a naval ship that docked in Haiti with a team of specialists and equipment to care for earthquake victims needing care more than the makeshift volunteer hospitals could provide in Port Au Prince. And one of my friend's pictures was the little boy that I cared for, smiling and happy, after multiple surgeries to reconstruct his injury.

I couldn't sleep after I got home from my shift in the E.D. on Saturday. The child with the injury's face was too much ingrained in my mind, as were the images of multiple other children that I had cared for in Haiti. And as I lay there, I contemplated what to do with my life. I still haven't decided between OB/GYN and emergency medicine. There is no doubt in my mind that OB/GYN is what I'm passionate about but the difficulties of being a mother as an OB/GYN resident are still at the forefront of my decision. I went to medical school initially planning to become an emergency medicine physician, and I can see through working there that I am needed. There are so many patients like that little boy on Saturday who need comfort during the most traumatic moments of their lives. So I'll keep praying...


  1. By far the best post you've written. I really look forward to reading more about your experiences in Haiti and Ecuador.

  2. You should contact Dr. Danielle Jones, she had twins right before starting her OB/GYN residency! and

    I also like what Sheryl Sandberg said about what you're deciding (not doing OB/GYN just because you'd like to be a mother someday):

    "Don't leave before you leave. I think there's a really deep irony to the fact that actions women are taking -- and I see this all the time -- with the objective of staying in the workforce actually lead to their eventually leaving. Here's what happens: We're all busy. Everyone's busy. A woman's busy. And she starts thinking about having a child, and from the moment she starts thinking about having a child, she starts thinking about making room for that child. "How am I going to fit this into everything else I'm doing?" And literally from that moment, she doesn't raise her hand anymore, she doesn't look for a promotion, she doesn't take on the new project, she doesn't say, "Me. I want to do that." She starts leaning back. The problem is that -- let's say she got pregnant that day, that day -- nine months of pregnancy, three months of maternity leave, six months to catch your breath -- fast-forward two years, more often -- and as I've seen it -- women start thinking about this way earlier -- when they get engaged, when they get married, when they start thinking about trying to have a child, which can take a long time. One woman came to see me about this, and I kind of looked at her -- she looked a little young. And I said, "So are you and your husband thinking about having a baby?" And she said, "Oh no, I'm not married." She didn't even have a boyfriend. I said, "You're thinking about this just way too early."

    But the point is that what happens once you start kind of quietly leaning back? Everyone who's been through this -- and I'm here to tell you, once you have a child at home, your job better be really good to go back, because it's hard to leave that kid at home -- your job needs to be challenging. It needs to be rewarding. You need to feel like you're making a difference. And if two years ago you didn't take a promotion and some guy next to you did, if three years ago you stopped looking for new opportunities, you're going to be bored because you should have kept your foot on the gas pedal. Don't leave before you leave. Stay in. Keep your foot on the gas pedal, until the very day you need to leave to take a break for a child -- and then make your decisions. Don't make decisions too far in advance, particularly ones you're not even conscious you're making."

    I think Sandberg is saying you shouldn't just not pick OB/GYN because you're scared about how it will fit with being a mother! You should pick OB/GYN if you're passionate about it, and then everything else (like being a mother) will fall into their places as well.

    But I am personally biased because I think the ED is a little frustrating minus some traumas (which you said isn't one of your more favorite parts). Just seems like a lot of what goes on is "non-emergency" emergencies like parents bringing in kids for fevers and drug addicts trying to game the system, etc., and you don't even get the continuity of care when all is said and done (minus the frequent flyers in the ED).

    Good luck!

    1. This is really good advice! Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful/helpful comment. I think the part that struck me the most was how you said that "if you have a child at home, your job better be really good to go back to." it's funny that I hadn't really thought about that before (and no one has ever said that to me). Also, I had never heard of that blog that you sent me, it's great!

  3. This is beautiful Erika! The topic of working and being a mommy has been on my heart a lot with my wedding coming up and my start of NP school. I look forward to hearing more about your mission experiences too. Know that I am praying for you as you make these decisions!

  4. I'll be praying with you! Given the effect just a picture has on me (tears, sometimes!) I can't even imagine what it must be like to see those things up close and in person.

  5. Thanks for sharing about Haiti. By the way, I love your signature, so cute!

  6. You've experienced far more and have already made much more of a difference in the world than most people - thanks for sharing!

  7. keep praying God will lead you on the right path. you have a gift of empathy and I pray through the vigor's of medicine you don't lose it.


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