Michele Bobosky is a certified emergency nurse who has vast experience in treating cholera patients with Project HOPE. When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, Michele was keen to get back to the country.
Note: This story is about a previous emergency response in Haiti. Learn more about how Project HOPE is responding to the 2021 Haiti earthquake and how you can help.
Michele Bobosky is a certified emergency nurse in Ventura, California who has vast experience in treating cholera patients in Haiti on previous missions to the country with Project HOPE. When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, Michele was keen to get back to the country to help build capacity so hospital staff would be prepared for a potential surge in cholera cases and to help improve the quality of basic health services.
I have circled the globe with Project HOPE, working as a volunteer nurse in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and the United States after Hurricane Katrina. I first joined Project HOPE in 2005 in Indonesia after the tsunami and then three other times including in Haiti. I was first led to medical humanitarian work after 9/11 – the first time I worked as a nurse in disaster medicine. It was so special to me that I was able to help anybody on such a terrible day. I had experience as a trauma nurse but it was the aftermath of 9/11 that gave me the bug to learn more about emergency medicine. I started doing FEMA training and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) work and when the big tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, I felt that I was the right person to support a medical team there and that led to my first mission with Project HOPE which had partnered with the US Navy in the region.
Doing any kind of medical humanitarian work is a privilege, and going to low resource countries reminds us how lucky we are to have so many resources at home. This work makes me feel proud to be American. It’s easy to feel drawn to help Haiti. Haitians are a beautiful people. They have grace, kindness and humor. On this mission, I have worked alongside Haitian nurses and other health professionals at the St. Therese Hospital in the Nippes region and travelled with the HOPE disaster response team to assess health needs in other areas. I feel more compelled than ever to share my skills to help build Haiti’s health capacity. During this mission I have worked closely with the nurses at St. Therese Hospital, teaching them how to safely administer medicine to children who require a lower dose than an adult; we have improvised on how to navigate an IV bag when there are no clamps available to control the flow for administering IV fluid infusions; we have also focused on dressing wounds effectively to stop the flow of blood; and I have been sharing a few other ‘tricks of the trade’ to make their work more effective so patients can heal quickly. I saw cases which required basic care and some trauma cases from motorcycle accidents which occur with some frequency in Haiti. The first thing we can do at Project HOPE to make people’s lives better is to focus on their health. A knowledgeable health care worker can keep communities healthy.
Disasters happen and I am glad to have been able to come back to Haiti three times now, twice at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in 2010 and 2011 to respond to cholera outbreaks and now to address the impact of Hurricane Matthew. There has been an increase in cholera cases in the hard-hit areas of Haiti and health authorities believe that will spread and the Ministry of Health wants to be prepared. The actual care of cholera patients is well prescribed by the World Health Organization protocols; they have signs up in the hospitals actually. But the challenge for Haiti at times is to know where to get IVs they need. Where do they get their oral rehydration source? Where is the patient’s toilet? Where do they put the waste, how do they wash their hands? Project HOPE typically answers all of these questions. It has delivered donated medical supplies and antibiotics to Haiti and there’s more to come. HOPE volunteers train local health professionals how to take care of the rest. The local health workers here don’t have experience with a big surge. We want to help prepare hospital staff with that possibility and the Ministry of Health is working hard to be prepared for a major surge.
I feel lucky to have been in a position in my own life to help Project HOPE in Haiti and further afield.