My daughter Claire, a disaster response nurse, returned last Friday from a week of volunteering with the International Medical Corps in Grand Bahama where she was part of a 4-nurse strike team sent to the island to assess the medical needs of the people there and determine how health care might best be delivered amidst the destruction left by Hurricane Dorian (see previous post, "Messages From The Bahamas").
As Claire went back to work at Northwestern Hospital the day after she returned to Chicago from the Bahamas, it wasn't until yesterday that we were finally able to have a phone conversation.
"It looked like the Apocalypse," Claire said when I asked her how it was on the island. There were areas, she said, where "there was nothing. No houses, no buildings."
And yet, strangely, she said, they would often know where a house had stood because they would come across a toilet standing. No sink, no bathtub, no refrigerator, no stove. Just the toilet.
I asked Claire how they got around the island. She said that when their plane arrived at the Freeport airport there was no electricity on the island and the airport was badly damaged and there was no transportation available to take them to the hospital in town, which was, thankfully, still standing and running on a generator. "But," she said, "the logistical folks at the airport got to work and pretty soon a truck drove up to take us to the hospital."
Claire said some nurses from the Freeport hospital joined their team, which was wonderfully helpful, because in a place where nothing was recognizable to indicate a town, the Bahamian nurses knew where the towns were, and also the residents recognized and appreciated seeing the local nurses.
It was hard getting around by truck, Claire said, because there was so much debris on the roads; and so they'd drive where they could, but they mostly walked.
"Well, I got my steps in," she said.
Sometimes they'd come across a house that was still standing.
Sometimes they'd find people inside the houses in need of medical care.
Many buildings were little more than piles of rubble.
In one town called Pelican Point they came across a medical clinic that was still standing. They went inside and found the clinic nurses there trying to set the place back up as best they could.
Once they saw a field of palm trees that looked as if a giant blade had flown by and cut off all the trees' heads.
One of the team's assignments was to offer assistance to the medical clinic in the town of High Rock. But when they arrived they discovered that the clinic was gone.
They found a spot outside of a government building that was still standing, and so here they set up a little clinic under a canopy tent. "Now we had a place that we could tell the residents to come to for medical care if they needed it."