Haitian’s resilience is the real story
The Hamilton Spectator
Jan. 26, 2010
Like 9/11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami, you’ll always remember the moment you heard and saw the first images of the Haitian earthquake.
I sat watching TV in disbelief as the first few hours of footage from Haiti hit the airwaves. Technology and social media provided in a matter of minutes the raw footage one only sees at ground zero.
After several days of viewing and organizing the family to give a donation, I had to simply turn it off.
The reason being, I could not watch another story about the saving of a child below tons of rubble only to find out after the painful, meticulous reported ordeal, the child did not survive.
Other than reminding people to CHML radio to give, there was nothing left for me to do. I felt helpless and could no longer watch. Is this selfish?
Margaret McKinnon, research scientist with the Mood Disorders program at St.Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said no. “It’s a natural reaction. It can be very overwhelming and distressing to see the images.” When there is very little one can do, other than donate, it leaves some feeling helpless.
Author Susan Moeller, in her book Compassion Fatigue, calls it just that. After a while we become numb to the tragedy. She blames it on the media and it’s need to constantly bring us a story or image that is bigger, better, higher, harder and faster than the one before. Most often that means more “dying babies”.
Being in the media I know more thought is given to this sort of thing, but I have noticed when talking to the people who have been there, they are not dwelling on death.
The rescuers, missionaries and military are telling stories of courage, heroics, and the resilient strength of a people that is truly inspiring.
Robin Spence of Caledonia is one of those people. She went to Haiti in early January with Mission of Hope to work at a medical clinic. She was outside playing with the kids from an orphanage when the quake hit.
After 30 seconds of hell, she ran to the clinic knowing there would be casualties. She helped treat 200 patients with only two doctors, four nurses and a makeshift clinic that was now doubling as an operating room.
The missionary told me several children died that first night, but that she didn’t dwell on it. When I asked her how she dealt with those deaths she said: “No time. You had to move on to the next patient.” She said she is having a harder time now that she is safely at home.
Instead, she expressed thanks for courageous people, such as the nurse who had never administered medical staples before, and learned under the guidance of a doctor on some old cloth. Soon she was “stapling heads” and other wounds that needed immediate attention.
Spence talks about resetting broken legs, home made splints, reattaching noses, and traction devices made with rocks and tape. She aided in surgery being performed on wounded children with natural light, no anestisia and only topical freezing.
She echoes many who say the people are incredibly resilient, and remain calm as they are just happy to be alive.
Robin was firing off stories of dauntlessness like the little girl she bribed with a Chiclet to let a nurse finish stapling the gash in her head. After settling down, the girl asked for her gum.
The story of a woman who gave birth two weeks earlier, and was in surgery for an infection when the quake hit. As everybody ran for their lives, she got up and escaped.
Two days later, she showed up at the clinic literally holding herself together. An-82-year-old missionary doctor with Robin’s group sewed her back up.
Every so often the husband would show her their child for strength. Robin said the lady never once complained, and was merely thankful she and her baby were alive.
These are the real stories of Haiti, not carnage shots and piles of bodies.
Hundreds of thousands are dead and many more homeless. We can all image the horror without having it thrust in our face every minute and waiting for a story to top the last.
It’s time to focus on the future and turn our energy into ways of helping these people survive, rebuild and flourish.
After hearing of their spirit, perhaps it’s the people of Haiti who are helping the rest of the world and not the other way around. Maybe we can all learn something here.
The Scott Thompson Show airs on News/Talk 900 CHML weekdays from 4-6pm.
Visit his website at www.ScottThompsonTalk.com