Local nurse spends two weeks helping earthquake victims in Haiti 

Lauren Aichele, operating room nurse at UCSF at Mount Zion, was one of three nurses chosen out of thousands of applicants to National Nurses United to help earthquake victims in Haiti. She stayed on the Navy’s medical ship, the USNS Comfort, for two weeks in February.

What were your initial reactions going through Port-au-Prince? It was dark when we arrived and it was pretty horrifying. We had military guarding us the whole time with their big M16s. People were everywhere in the streets. There were little fires and rubble everywhere.

Why did you go? I signed up as soon as it happened. I’m a CNN junkie and I was watching it on the news, and I wanted to do something. Honestly, I didn’t think they were going to call me. When they did, I had about 24 hours to pack my things and get my shots and I was gone.

What kind of demand for medical care is there? When we arrived on the ship, the Navy had been operating 16 hours a day. Helicopters were flying people in and out, and there was still a backlog. They had 300 patients in three days. It slowed down a lot toward the end and they started flying people out of the boat.

Are there any sights, or sounds, or anything sensory that sticks out in your memory? These were the worst injuries I’ve ever seen. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. But I still think it was the best experience of my life.

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Brent Begin

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