Steven Burke talks about the good, the bad and the beautiful
Steven Burke works as an RN at the Halifax Infirmary and has worked as a nurse for seven years, both in Canada and Australia. He didn’t really appreciate how much is taken for granted in a modern, state-of-the-art medical facility until he volunteered in Haiti as part of Team Broken Earth. That’s when he realized, “we’re kind of spoiled.”
Being forced to work with a lack of resources made him a better nurse, he believes. In Haiti, nursing is more practical, there are few tests and equipment to rely on, so treatment plans are developed based on assessments, he says. “I’m a lot more confident in my assessment skills as a result. I learned so much. It sped up my knowledge.”
He recalls one case in particular where a young woman was transferred from another hospital with asthma. “We started treating her, but it didn’t seem like an asthma attack.” The woman was lethargic and unable to move her limbs. The team suspected a neurological disorder called myasthenia gravis, but there was no testing available to confirm the diagnosis. They had no choice but to try the treatment. “Within minutes she was showing signs of recovery. I think it would have been missed if we hadn’t been there.” By coincidence, someone had donated a three-month supply of the medication needed to treat the disorder, just two days prior.
There was a bit of culture shock when Burke first saw the living conditions in Haiti, but he also noted the strong sense of support and community. In a place where people have so little, everyone seems willing to help out and do whatever they can for one another. It was the people of Haiti that made the experience as great as it was, he says. Something as simple as playing Frisbee outside with children was truly rewarding.
It’s something Burke hopes to experience again. He’s already thinking about fundraising ideas to help cover the costs of joining Team Broken Earth in January.