2008 News

Boston Healing Hands: MNA nurses participate in mission of mercy

08.15.2008

Quincy Medical Center RNs initiate hydrocephalus program in Haiti

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
July/August 2008 Edition

Caritas Photo
Healing Hands. Janet Larkin (seated, holding a child with hydrocephalus) and Paula Ryan, MNA members and RNs at Quincy Medical Center during a recent visit to Haiti as part of a Boston Healing Hands mission. Dr. Andrew Folmar (with child) sits with Tony St. Louis, director of Kaykapab Clinic.
 

Three years ago when MNA member Janet Larkin attended a conference and heard Dr. Paul Farmer from Healing Hands for Haiti International Foundation, Inc. speak, she knew her life would never be the same.

“I always wanted to do something where the need was great,” said Larkin, a medical surgical RN at Quincy Medical Center for the past 35 years.

Dedicated to bringing rehabilitation medicine to Haiti, the non-profit, non-governmental organization was founded in 1998 by Dr. Jeff Rondle. It’s vision and mission is to provide treatment, physical/occupational rehab and education to the people of Haiti while heightening the public awareness in that country about physical disability issues. Doctors, nurses and additional health care support staff travel to the impoverished country throughout the year – at their own expense and on their own time.

Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Healing Hands for Haiti International Foundation has recently established a subset branch in Boston known as Boston Healing Hands, Inc., an organization that both Larkin and MNA member Paula Ryan are committed to fostering.

“Boston Healing Hands is associated with Healing Hands for Haiti in Utah, but we do our own fundraising and outreach programs,” explained Larkin, who with Ryan established a pre-op and post-op hydrocephalus program that has proven highly successful.

“Prior to the program, there was a 50% fatality rate for children who had the surgery,” said Larkin. “After the first year of the program, two out of 20 who had surgeries for hydrocephalus died; it was obvious our work made a difference.”

Ryan, a nurse at Quincy Medical Center for 40 years, the past 19 in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit, echoed Larkin’s assessment of the duo’s program. Healing Hands. Janet Larkin (seated, holding a child with hydrocephalus) and Paula Ryan, MNA members and RNs at Quincy Medical Center during a recent visit to Haiti as part of a Boston Healing Hands mission. Dr. Andrew Folmar (with child) sits with Tony St. Louis, director of Kaykapab Clinic.

“It’s impressive that simple basic education about the disease and the necessity for proper hygiene following surgery made such a difference in the fatality rate,” said Ryan, extending kudos to the Haitian interpreter who assisted the duo with the program.

“Our work with Healing Hands is extremely rewarding,” said Ryan. “People are so happy to have us there helping; they give back to us in so many ways.”

Identifying “the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life” as the most gratifying element of her work with Boston Healing Hands, Larkin noted that the downside to mission work is “seeing the utter sadness of a country that is riddled by poverty.”

“It’s a roller coaster ride; the experience lifts your soul and then the next minute it brings you down,” said Larkin. “It is spiritually moving and heart-wrenching at the same time.”

Despite the emotional upheaval it can generate, both Ryan and Larkin recommend and encourage other nurses and health care professionals to become involved in Boston Healing Hands and similar missions of mercy.

“The warmth and kindness exhibited by people you help is like nothing else,” said Larkin. “You can’t fully describe it unless you experience it.”

 

FPO