South Florida Hospital News
Sunday September 22, 2019
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May 2010 - Volume 6 - Issue 11

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A Story of Care (you can change this headline!)

When the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January, I immediately wanted to help. As a nurse, that is always my reaction whenever someone is injured. Three days after the disaster, I was on a plane to Haiti with two orthopaedic surgeons, two trauma surgeons and two nurses. We were one of the first medical teams to arrive and wasted no time getting to work at a makeshift field hospital on the United Nations compound.

Because of my training at Jackson, where I worked as a trauma nurse for 18 years, I was prepared for any situation. The conditions in Haiti, however, were far worse than anything I had ever seen. The "hospital" was overflowing with patients, most of whom had crush injuries, in rows and rows of cots. It was organized chaos. We started IVs, administered tetanus shots and distributed pain medication and antibiotics from our "pharmacy," which was simply a table of medications.


Ann-Lynn Denker, A.R.N.P., Ph.D., director of Jackson Health System’s Center for Nursing Excellence, cares for Haiti earthquake survivors at the University of Miami’s Project Medishare Hospital in Haiti.

There was little time to rest, as patients continued to pour into the facility. Our team of doctors and nurses saw about 300 patients a day. We would assess each one, stabilize their fractures and change the dressings on their wounds. Everyone we treated had an impact on me. Despite losing everything – and suffering excruciating pain, sometimes without any drugs to help – they were so appreciative.

One patient, however, made a profound impact. Baby Jenny, a two-month-old girl trapped in the rubble for five days, was brought to our hospital, listless and unresponsive. She appeared to have a depressed skull fracture, chest injuries and burns. After a long resuscitation period and improved vital signs, we decided this child needed to be transported to Miami for medical care. She had no family with her, so I immediately volunteered to travel with this little fighter to Jackson’s Ryder Trauma Center. As we traveled by plane, I held Jenny in my arms, regularly checking her vital signs to make sure she was stable.

She spent a few weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami and is expected to fully recover. Jenny was eventually reunited with her birth parents, whom she was separated from during the quake. Witnessing her happy ending, and playing a role in her survival, is one of my most rewarding professional experiences to date.


Nurse Karen Chamuel, A.R.N.P., from Jackson Health System cares for a two-month-old baby girl trapped in the rubble for five days. Chamuel accompanied Baby Jenny on a flight to Miami to receive further medical treatment at Jackson’s Holtz Children’s Hospital.

Many of my Jackson Health System colleagues also volunteered their time, using personal days off, to go to Haiti to assist with medical relief efforts.

Ann-Lynn Denker, A.R.N.P., Ph.D., director of Jackson’s Center for Nursing Excellence, traveled to Haiti five weeks after the quake to work at the University of Miami’s Project Medishare Hospital – a compound of three large tents, including an adult trauma center, a pediatric trauma center, an operating room, wound care and sleeping facilities.

Denker, an advanced practice nurse, was assigned to pediatrics and worked 12-hour shifts that were long and demanding. The collaboration among everyone working there – physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, translators, social workers, soldiers and missionaries – was truly remarkable, as was the optimism of the young patients, she said.


Baby Jenny, a two-month-old, was found under the rubble in Haiti after the earthquake. She was cared for by Jackson Health System physicians and nurses, including Karen Chamuel, A.R.N.P.

"The children I cared for were loving, thankful and appreciative," Denker said. "They rarely complained, despite critical injuries and little pain medication."

As caregivers, we are blessed with the incredible gift of being able to help people when they are most in need. This experience touched us all, as did the incredible optimism of the Haitian people.

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