Typhoon Haiyan, called Yolanda in the Philippines, tore through the country on November 8, leaving a swath of destruction. As we go to press, the death toll stands at more than 5,700, with about 1,800 people still missing. The typhoon displaced more than four million people and destroyed more than one million houses. The massive agricultural and infrastructure damage is still being tallied.
Close to 3,000 RNs – including more than 250 NYSNA nurses – have volunteered through RNRN, a project of National Nurses United that coordinates sending volunteer nurses to disaster-stricken areas, to go to the Philippines and help in this time of extraordinary need. In November, NYSNA’s Board of Directors approved a $20,000 donation to RNRN to support the Philippine relief effort.
Our own Nella Pineda-Marcon and Linda Benoit, both RNs at Mt. Sinai, and Mireille Leroy, RN at Lincoln Hospital, have returned recently from volunteering in the Philippines.
Linda Benoit, RN at Mt. Sinai and president of the Haitian American Nurses Association (HANA)
I go on global nursing missions at least twice a year, but still I was shocked and overwhelmed by what I found in the Philippines.
We set up a medical station. Mostly I was doing triage. We saw a lot of wounds, many foot injuries. A young man came with his foot half split and we treated it, without anesthesia.
There was a constant stream of patients. The stress on people, even children, was very, very serious. Very high blood pressure was common, from anxiety and extreme fatigue. Lots of people complained of palpitations. When no place is dry, you cannot sleep for very long. People never dry off.
People were dazed and confused. Without rest they become disoriented, they cannot function. You do not even want to eat. But, they were so grateful we arrived to give them help.
Mireille Leroy, RN, Lincoln Hospital
Many people just vanished because of the water. For days we were finding people. There was so much loss and devastation.
The most affected are the elderly and the youngest. Children don’t know where to go. And the elderly don’t want to leave the only community they’ve ever known, even when it’s entirely gone.
People were still in shock. Some will never recover mentally. There’s nothing to rebuild and many are suddenly completely on their own.
We converted a school to a medical center and worked long days. Made one classroom an OR and set up a big tent with different stations, an area for triage, a pediatrician, an ob/gyn, internists, a surgeon.
I did a lot of teaching about water and infection. There’s a lot of debris and people are barefoot. Chronic wounds are a problem. And I’m afraid there’ll be cholera in the coming months.
I was a first responder in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. The people are similar: resilient. They will help each other.
Nella Pineda-Marcon, RN, Mt. Sinai Hospital
It was tough. I’ve been on missions to the Philippines before, but on planned missions to give free medical services, never in a disaster situation.
I ended up with a group with others there to help with reconstruction and mental health services. I was the only one with medical expertise.
We went from makeshift house to makeshift house. I did a lot of health teaching around water and saw a lot of kids with diarrhea and taught parents how to prevent electrolyte imbalance. I sutured a gaping wound, without anesthesia. And I helped the volunteers who were getting sick.
It humbled me to see so much suffering. I think the experience will help me be more patient. I would go on a relief mission again. I received thank you letters that made me cry.
You can help
Recovery will take a very long time. It’s not too late to volunteer or donate. Sign up at bitly.com/NYSNAhaiyanrelief