A year after the earthquake, strength of Haitians stands out for nurse

Nurse Kelli Nelson can recall many of the people she has met in Haiti since the earthquake hit the country last year. She had worked all over the country, interacting with different medical teams and witnessing the strength of the Haitian people following the disaster.

But one that stands out is a 12-year-old boy who was brought to the hospital where she was working alongside Haitian personnel, seeing hundreds of patients a day.

Nelson, one of the founders of the non-profit organization Island Impact Ministries, arrived in Haiti five days after the earthquake hit.

The boy’s aunt brought him to the hospital. He was screaming in the exam room, not from pain but because he was hysterical, Nelson recalls. The boy had lost his family in his home when the earthquake hit. His life had been spared, but his arm was amputated at the shoulder after the arch of a doorway fell on him.

A week later, his wound had become infected and had to be re-opened, Nelson said. He had been given as much morphine as his body could handle, but he wouldn’t stop screaming.

Nelson, who had lived in Haiti for eight years, started comforting him in Creole.

“God is with you,” she said.

“I know he is with me, I’m alive,” the boy said.

This memory is significant for Nelson because it emphasizes the spirituality of the Haitian people and the maturity level of their youth.

Nelson and her husband, Rev. Rob Nelson, have been to Haiti several times since the earthquake hit last January. Together they provide food and medical aid to the thousands of Haitians still in need.

There is an ongoing demand for support, specifically surgical teams, she says. Nelson says that the problems in Haiti aren’t solely from the earthquake as the country was in need of support prior to the disaster.

A year later, the country is still struggling to rebuild, she said.

“Almost nothing has changed,” Nelson said, recalling her last visit in October 2010. “The interest is slowing down to almost a stop.”

After the earthquake, the dead bodies were carried away in carts and have since been taken to large pits in the Northern region of the country where there is a deserted area. Nelson said many Haitians are deeply affected by the missing headstones for the dead.

The African background of the Haitian people imbeds a culturally historic belief system mixed with the Catholic belief regarding the deceased. Many Haitians believe their dead are immortalized thus they immensely value their dead by putting emphasis in their burial practices.

The Haitian people are not allowed to bury their loved ones since the earthquake, partly because there isn’t any available space.

“It’s a hard issue for Haitians to swallow,” Nelson said.