HOPE Volunteer Nurses Provide Comfort, Post-Surgery
In Jamaica, more than 100 surgeries were conducted, with life changing results for those patients.
In Jamaica, more than 100 surgeries were conducted, with life changing results for those patients. But the impact of renewed sight, better functioning limbs and repaired deformities will ripple out far beyond each individual patient. “When we restore function to someone who has been unable to work,” says Captain Bill Todd, Director for Surgical Services on the Comfort, “We help that person get back to their life, and also relieve the burden on their caregivers. When families are healthy and productive, the communities in which they live are improved, as well.”
Three Project HOPE volunteer nurses are providing post-operative care on the Comfort, as part of Continuing Promise 2011, during its stops in Jamaica and Peru. Betty Fish-Ferguson works in PACU, or the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit. Patients arrive here immediately post-surgery and are closely monitored while they regain consciousness. The area is immediately adjacent to the operating room, and in the rare case in which a problem arises patients have immediate access to their surgeons.
HOPE Volunteer Betty Fish-Ferguson, RN, was able to integrate easily into the unit. She is a retired Navy nurse whose work at her home hospital in Oregon is also in the PACU. She served on the Comfort immediately following the earthquake in Haiti, and has been struck by the gratitude of patients both there and in Jamaica. “Before they are even fully conscious, patients will grasp my hand, and say, “Thank you, God bless you, thank you.” says Betty.
Once patients are stable, they are transported to the ship’s Intensive Care Unit, which has the capability of monitoring 80 truly critical patients, and did so when the Comfort provided emergency surgery in Haiti. But during this mission, where surgeries are planned and scheduled, the ICU functions as a step down unit. Gretchen Mendel and Roxana Hutchcroft work together on this unit, and both agree that the experience has taken them out of the comfort zone they both enjoy as experienced nurses working at Baltimore hospitals. “I’ve definitely learned to be flexible,” says Roxana. “We don’t have unlimited access to equipment and supplies like we do in the U.S. and it’s a good thing to learn how to use what’s available.” Gretchen agrees and adds, “The volume and intensity of the cases in ICU is less than we are used to, so we have so many opportunities to do patient education about hypertension and diabetes and women’s health issues, both in the ICU and at clinic sites. I really love that human-to-human interaction.”