A Nurse’s Journey
Claire Larsen working in Haiti.
My name is Claire Larsen. I am a 50 year old woman working as a nurse in the United States. I left Haiti in 1982 because of the political unrest and challenges, and I joined my mother already living in New York. I was 24 years of age, and studying medicine.
My life in the USA was very different. I studied laboratory technology and then went to nursing school. I am currently an LPN working toward my goal of becoming an RN. I have worked with the elderly for many years, and my specialty is wound care. I am a Certified Wound Care specialist. Over the years, I have maintained a fondness for my native land, but I have increasingly found myself living as an American. I gave birth to two children in the United States, and we are living the American dream.
When my son turned two and like any proud mother, I took him to see family still in Haiti. Early during our visit there was a small earthquake barely registering on the Richter scale. Nonetheless, I remember the fear, panic, and what seemed like devastation for what had been considered a slight tremble. On the afternoon of January 12, 2010, I received a call from my sister who told me about the earthquake measuring a 7.0. I was not immediately shocked, but I instantly cried because I feared the worst. My tears were overwhelming. Suddenly, a strong kinship toward my native land blossomed in my heart.
I knew that I wanted to help, and that there must be something that I could do. My first thought was to run home. I had not thought of Haiti as ‘home’ in many years, but the crisis brought my native land to my core.
Guillermo Montes de Oca sorts donations
brought from all over Miami Dade County
to help the efforts.
I worked with my colleagues at Sister Emmanuel Hospital to collect items and goods to be shipped to Haiti for the initial relief efforts. As a wound care nurse, I understood what was required, and I focused our collection drive toward the wound supplies. While it was meaningful and rewarding, I still felt a calling to do more.
Finally on February 23rd, I embarked on my journey. For nine days, and for what seemed like an eternity, I witnessed the best and worst of life on this planet.
Those days were hard. The needs were overwhelming, and the work enormous. My focus was on meeting human needs, and there was little time to stop, even to eat, rest, or reflect. However, I never felt hungry, tired, or in need of time to myself. I was absorbed in the human needs, and the gratitude of being able to give back fueled my spirit.
As an American of Haitian descent I am proud that I was able to help the people living in Haiti. It felt like it was my duty as a nurse, but my responsibility as both a Haitian and an American. On the other hand, to see the volunteer nurses, doctors, and others from around the world serving the poorest among the poor amazed me. What a gift to witness people helping people. They were not drawn to the Caribbean nation because of their ancestry, but because they saw a human need.
Never have I felt prouder to be a nurse. This profession gives me the skills to serve others in need. Additionally, I have never experienced more pride to be an American. This country accepted me when I needed a home, allowed me to grow as a professional and a mother, and now enabled me to return to my birthplace in a position to lend a hand.
I plan to return to Haiti. My skills are still needed, and I have the opportunity to give to others. My yearning to return is also to rejoin the global team of healthcare professionals focused on using their knowledge to give to those in such dire need. While it is better to give than to receive, it is also rewarding to know that your actions made a difference.
Claire Larsen, LPN, is a Certified Wound Care Specialist. She works for Sister Emmanuel Hospital where she provides focused care to those with complex wounds. She can be reached via the hospital’s e-mail. She remains thankful for the work of many, and in particular, the work of Dr. JJ Centurion and the Malteser International Order of Malta and Sister Edith Gonzalez, SSJ, Vice President of Mission and Ministry at Mercy Hospital, Miami.