Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Crystal clear compassion

Kevin Cullen sensitively writes this column in today's Boston Globe about Crystal Sannella and her colleagues from BIDMC who recently went on a medical mission to Haiti.

I've had the privilege of getting to know some of these folks, and I am struck by their generosity of spirit. You can see this, too, in the post-mission emails among them and to those of us in hospital administration. Here are some excerpts from three:

Now that we are all back from Haiti, I just wanted to take a minute to say again what an honor it was to work beside all of you this last week. Despite conditions that really defy description, you each worked tirelessly to provide the absolute best quality of care possible given the circumstances of the situation, and I - and the patients and families we cared for - appreciate that. Surrounded by such devastation and tragedy, it would have been easy to despair; yet each of you managed in different and unique ways to create something positive in an otherwise bleak reality, always acting professionally and with compassion.

The experiences we have had will all make us better in our own roles and appreciate the resources we do have to provide great clinical care at BIDMC. I have no doubt that there are many more people alive this week who would not have been had we not been there. There were unfortunately a lot of deaths as well, but having reviewed every case, I can honestly say that nothing more could have been done in the clinical situations you were all in. You have touched the lives of many and they were grateful for it -- evidenced by the fact they did not want us to leave.

[This trip] was shocking, tragic, exciting, challenging, inspiring, and memorable -- sometimes discouraging, but ultimately immensely gratifying. We were all frustrated and saddened by the limits of what we could do, but despite those limits I think we were able to do some very good work. I'm also especially grateful that as a very junior member of the department I was given the opportunity to help. It was a profound experience for me, and I hope very much that I can make international work a significant part of my practice in the future.


Meghan said...

I wanted to thank you for the amazing opportunity that being a BIDMC employee allowed me to experience this past week. Never in my wildest dreams could I have anticipated the things that I witnessed, both gratifying and positive as well as terrible and unimaginable. The team that you sent to Haiti showed up ready and willing to do the very best job we could. And at this moment, with everything said and done, I believe that we did that. Michael, Mick, Kellie, Maureen, Peguey, Ian and Jess were truly amazing and I aspire to be like them. Their leadership was unwavering. Their skills were at the highest level. And their compassion for their patients as well as their compassion for their teammates was something I don't know will ever be matched in my lifetime. From something as huge as saving a life or something as tragic as losing a patient....again....to something as simple as sharing our food or giving up ear plugs. We were a team through and through. I will forever be grateful for calling them my peers and my Haiti Teammates.

The doctors and nurses who worked nights in the most deplorable conditions were not mentioned and that saddens me. We were a team and they were the stars. The saved lives that no one would think they could save. The could have quit many times over, and they went...every.... single.... night.... knowing that they couldn't do what they knew they should. To their patients they were heroes.

PIH is doing amazing work. They are trying to make steps in the right direction with a mantra of working beside the Haitian collegues and not taking over the system. I have the utmost respect for their organization and hope to be partnered with them many times over in the future.

Crystal said...

While it was nice of Kevin to mention me in his story, it is important to me that our entire team gets the recognition they deserve. I chose to go on this mission trip for the people of Haiti and for myself. I went there thinking that if I could help one person, it would be a successful trip. Fortunately we helped many people and learned so much from each other in doing so. It will take some time for me to process all that I did and saw on this trip. I hope that I have future opportunities like this, because I feel very invested in the people of Haiti. They trusted that we were there to do things in their best interest, and I feel so grateful to them for that.

I hope that the article is a positive reflection of BIDMC, and the integrity of its nurses, doctors and therapists. Aside from our professional titles, we are all people first. We are all human, like the people of Haiti. It is our ability to connect with them as people before practicing our medical roles that allowed us to do good in Haiti.