Pueblo nurse relates her ‘journey’

Published: February 04, 2010 12:06 am

Home from helping Haiti

CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/JOHN JAQUES — Marianne Wood has returned from Haiti helping as a nurse in the devastated region.

Nurse finds remarkable optimism among earthquake survivorsBy JAMES AMOS
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
For a country still struggling with daily needs after the Jan. 12 earthquake, the people in Haiti still smile a lot.

Marianne Wood, a semiretired nurse in Pueblo, just returned from a week and a half giving medical aid to Haitians hurt by the earthquake.

She said she comes back amazed at their resilience.

“We were giving out ibuprofen for broken bones, and they were happy with that,” she said. “They were so appreciative and made you feel so welcome. Smiles. There are smiles everywhere.”

Wood went to Haiti to work with Pueblo surgeon Jim Smith, who also has returned. She had been following the news coverage right after the earthquake and then saw a newspaper story about Smith going over to help with the country’s immense medical needs. She called Carrie Smith who put her in contact with Airline Ambassadors, a nonprofit group that’s been active ferrying aid workers and supplies to and from Haiti and soon found herself on a plane to Miami.

After 20 years at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center and several years at Parkview Medical Center, Wood said she knew she could help and had to try. She is married to Robert Wood, a retired firefighter, and the couple used to be part-owners of the Cock & Bull Tavern on Union Avenue.

Once she reached Haiti, Wood said the need was nearly overwhelming. She joined Smith’s group in Port-au-Prince two weeks after the quake.

“When I flew in I saw kids playing on the street, I saw people smiling,” she said. “And I thought, ‘How?’ ’’

But the Haitians don’t dwell on misfortune, she said. They believe that stewing about problems only makes for more problems, so “they wake up and they do what they need to do to survive for that day. They’re doing what they have to do, but they smile.”

Some groups had organized medical services and Wood found herself going out to areas around the city to provide medical care. At night, she and other medical workers stayed in homes borrowed from wealthier Haitians.

All the homes had at least some earthquake damage, and Haitians still are frightened to go inside buildings. That made it hard to convince them to come inside the few remaining hospitals for treatment, Wood said.

More difficult was the fact that while she could help people for a moment, she couldn’t do much for their long-term needs, Wood said.

She said there was intense pressure to move patients out of the medical center’s tents to make room for new arrivals. That meant ignoring the plight of patients like a young boy who had an amputated leg and no known family. Or that of a young girl, also with no living family, who was being cared for by the clinic’s 7-year-old translator.

The boy tried to convince Wood to bring the girl back to America, not knowing that it’s not that simple.

“He said, ‘You need to take her home,’ ’’ she said. ‘‘ ‘She has nobody.’ ’’

“And there were so many of them . . . ” she said Wednesday. “Where do they go?”

Wood joined medical professionals from all over the country sweating together under the 80-degree sun, and working inside tents, where the heat felt like 100 degrees.

Despite not knowing each other, her teammates jumped into their work, she said. There were none of the personality conflicts or doctors-versus-nurses arguing that can happen in regular working life, she said.

Instead, everyone dropped their egos and took on the huge task of helping dozens of Haitians each morning.

“There were no lines. We just picked up on each other’s strengths. It’s something I’ve never experienced,” she said. “We created teams that functioned, people took the lead and the rest of us followed and we made it work.”

She and other medical professionals have talked about going back later. They estimated that Haitians will need medical care for the next year or more.

“To depend on a total stranger to accomplish a good thing, by holding each other’s hand and make something happen. It was so good a feeling.”

jamos@chieftain.com

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