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Queens Nurse Contracted Airway Disease As She Aided Haiti

Queens Nurse Contracted Airway Disease As She Aided Haiti

By: Dean Meminger

Among the many New Yorkers in the medical field who helped Haiti after last January’s earthquake was a Queens nurse who went to her native country to assist survivors, but is now herself struggling to survive. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following report.

New York Hospital Queens nurse Gina Pardo went to Haiti after the earthquake in January 2009 to help victims. The visit, however, caused the Cambria Heights resident to need medical care.

"They say I have reactive airway disease. More than likely something that I inhaled," says Pardo.

NY1 first met Pardo last year while she was in Port-au-Prince. Besides helping earthquake victims, she was also delivering babies and doing the best she could with very few supplies.

"You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, what’s best for mommy and the baby," said Pardo at the time. "We got to work with what we have, which is not much."

Days after the earthquake there was a constant smell of death, smoke and dust. Pardo, who already suffered with asthma, says she believes those conditions weakened her lungs even more.

"I have had bronchitis several times since I have been back. Several times I’ve had pneumonia," says Pardo.

She says she been out on disability from New York Hospital Queens since March.

Pardo’s cousins who are also in the medical field and traveled with her to Haiti are concerned, and say they have all had to deal with various issues.

"At one point, I felt something was always in my throat or in my nose. At work, I was very irritable," says Nancy Elivert, a Elmhurst hospital nurse.

The images of what they witnessed often play over in their minds, and all the photos they took are strong reminders as well.

"It was really difficult for me, to see what was going on, especially the environment we were working in," says Regine Mathelier, a Winthrop Hospital nurse. "We had nothing. We didn’t have [operating room] lights. You saw flies going around, I was shocked to see this."

Many say they could believe a year has passed since Haiti was rocked by the earthquake.

However, Dr. Prospere Remy of Bronx Lebanon Hospital, who performed surgeries on victims, says the last 12 months have been torture, with the earthquake, a cholera outbreak that killed 3,000 and a controversial presidential election.

"The one year is like a century, if you look at it from that standpoint," says Remy.

Pardo may have a persistent cough, but is glad she could do her small part to directly help Haiti.

"I did want to go back, but it finally sank in that I cannot go back," says Pardo. "No regrets, I have no regrets of going."

The others say they want to go back, but their families are not sure they should.