Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm Sending Comfort

I have an easy life. That fact is not lost on me. I would say that if you have a computer and time to check a blog or two throughout the day, and if you have daily food and water and shelter, shoes and friends and family, you might have an easy life, too. At least it's easy relative to the lives lived by millions of other people on the planet.

So, in my easy life, I don't know how humans survive living after surviving terror.

Last week, Small Town Newspaper conducted an online poll asking people if they would be donating to organizations providing relief in Haiti. Shockingly, 73% said they would not. We've got our own problems right here in America, after all, and they thought we should keep our focus and money within our borders.

My opinion piece in today's edition, copied below, is my response and my attempt to place myself in the shoes of someone whose life is anything but easy.

Sending Comfort

I cannot imagine what it feels like to stand with your feet firmly planted on ground that gives way without warning, ground you don’t bother to consciously think of as solid and stable because those are attributes of “ground” you assume to be true. You walk on it and drive on it and build your house on it and raise your children on it. Then earth’s crust adjusts, and within 30 seconds, you’ve lost everything.

Images we see on televised news showing the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti can only show us the conditions there in one-dimensional bites. We are presented with glimpses of someone else’s suffering and loss, and the rest is left to our imagination.

I have never experienced great trauma, so I am finding it difficult to fill in the gaps. I do not want to suffer what appears to be pain, dread, sorrow and uncertainty so severe you are left nearly despondent. I do not want to count myself among the victims whose plight was aired on CNN in previous days, those sitting outside of one of the few medical centers left intact, waiting for someone to tend to their broken bones while corpses of their neighbors were lined up beside them. And I do not want to know what it’s like to add the bodies of my loved ones to mounting heaps of bodies because there is no time to bury the dead while there are the living still to rescue.

I picture myself as the woman waiting on the ground at the door of the hospital, my leg broken, my home destroyed and my family members missing. I am hungry and thirsty, in pain and frightened, and on my face is an expression of despair. In her place, in my place, I would want to know that beyond my small island nation, there might be individuals and nations who care that I am in want and care enough to send aid.

I am relieved to say that the United States is one of the nations that are indeed sending aid, and we’re sending it as quickly as possible. We’ve promised cash, and we’ve dispatched search and rescue teams. We have deployed a marine expedition unit, a coast guard ship and an aircraft carrier loaded with supplies and even helicopters that are desperately needed in a country where roads have been destroyed.

Beyond all of this help, we are preparing one of our hospital ships, the USNS Comfort so that it will be ready to leave from its homeport in Baltimore, Md. early this week. The ship will be staffed with at least 800 personnel, mostly doctors, nurses and technicians from the National Medical Center. It will provide 1,000 hospital beds, a dozen operating rooms and desperately needed medical supplies.

The Comfort has been to Haiti before—last spring, the ship embarked on a four-month mission to the Caribbean and Latin America, and Haiti was one of its ports of call. The staff on board provided medical care in poor neighborhoods, helped open a surgical center in Port-au-Prince and coordinated a database of U.S. doctors willing to serve at the center on rotation.

In a blog created to document the mission, the ship’s chaplain wrote about the trip to Haiti and how the staff performed their duties with a “spirit of joy.” He described everyone he encountered as being grateful and how they hoped the ship would return and stay longer next time. Unfortunately, they’re about to get their wish.

The Comfort is on standby and ready to steam south, and I can’t help but think there is some added weight to the name it carries. Hippocrates said, “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” The doctors onboard the hospital ship provide not just objective medical care, but solace in time of affliction as the word “comfort” is defined. They bring compassion along with expertise, and they represent the rest of us who can only watch in disbelief.

To the unnamed woman with the broken body and apparently broken spirit as well, I can only attempt to imagine your circumstance, but beyond that, I offer my country’s resources. I send comfort, and I hope it finds you, just as I hope it would find me if I were in your place.


savannah said...

beautifully said! i hope people will take it to heart. xoxox

dive said...

Your strongest and most passionate piece yet, Robyn. Beautifully written, heartrending stuff.

Madame DeFarge said...

Really heartfelt piece of writing. Hope it made an impression on all your readers.

Lynn said...

That's very touching, Robyn, really. It's heartbreaking watching the news reports. Really awful.
Even worse, I heard tonight that aid has arrived, but fuel is in short supply so it's difficult to get it from the airport to the areas in need. Just terrible.

MmeBenaut said...

Lovely Robyn and I'm sure your words of comfort will find their way on wings of love to the bereft in Haiti. I'm proud that my country too is offering support.

MmeBenaut said...

The Australian Government has committed $10 million to the relief. Our PM said he was ready to send more.

Private Australian donations include about $250,000 to UNICEF, more than $1 million to World Vision, almost $1.5 million to the Red Cross, $200,000 to Save the Children, $380,000 to Caritas Australia and large donations to Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia.

Care Australia is also assisting with personnel.

Shan said...

That was really nice Robyn. I hadn't heard the story of the Comfort. I'm glad we can at least send money since we can't physically help. One of the orphanages I have been following said something like "please DON'T come unless you are medically skilled and can care for wounded." She went on to say they simply don't have food to feed extra mouths or places to put any people. Money is the way to go for us for sure.

Every night when I climb in my cozy bed I imagine all the suffering people who cannot find any comfort of any sort. I just ask God to deliver them through this awful pain and that his love would be apparent to those who survive and must deal with recovery.