Sr. Noëlda Amédée, D. J., living in Haïti, shares her experience working as a nurse in St Camille Center.
St Camille Center is a hospital founded by the Camillian Fathers in 2001 to provide health care to persons lacking financial means.
I have been working here for the past 18 months after obtaining my nursing diploma. I work as nursing supervisor in paediatrics. I spend part of my time in coordination duties and the rest doing bedside nursing. In our section we have three wards each with eighteen cribs.
This year, we are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of St Camille de Lellis, an Italian. Many important activities were organized this past July. Among other activities, an open day event providing free care in different specialized services was organized and will be repeated again next July.
See signs of life
“To humanize as Jesus would”, I accept to work with others to foster human dignity in being attentive to see signs of life, of fraternity.
I consider a privilege to be presently working in paediatrics in St Camille Hospital enabling me to be in touch with different realities. Because we have common wards, I hear a lot of the conversations between parents who remain day and night at the bedside of their sick children. At the same time, I witness the weaving of relationships, examples of solidarity, of sharing, of mutual support. I sense the strong bonds of fraternity among them. They share their meals and things with one another. From time to time, I offer formation in the wards, on cleanliness and health so as to avoid as much as possible risk of contamination. And at the same time, we cannot prevent them from living out certain realities. I witness daily in the hospital the living out by the parents of the motto in our Haitian coat-of- arms, “In unity, there is strength”. On different occasions, I was reminded of the fact that our moral standards and traditions are still very much alive.
Other doings also catch my attention, such as the fact that children under 5 years of age were cared for at no cost. Up until now all services were free of charge. A problem has risen in the last few months: to cope with the financial burden of the hospital, the administration is asking the parents to cover all expenses. I can testify to the fact that the majority of the patients who came to the center lived in very underprivileged areas (98%) and the others (2%) came only very occasionally. The result was that all our beds were taken. It is a very difficult situation. Since parents cannot pay for medication, lab tests etc., the children are hospitalized for longer periods. Due to lack of precise diagnosis as well as medication, children cannot progress normally. Sometimes the Camillian Fathers will exempt the most needy families from paying.
We all know that giving everything for free is not the solution…it is best to teach people to fish rather than give them fish each day. But faced with an emergency, what to do? How are we to act so as to help people out of their misery?
I really appreciate what I do in my work, even if it is very demanding as far as schedules, workload and commuting back and forth are concerned. Being able to live out the charism of our congregation, caring for sick children in an institution under the direction of the Camillian Fathers is what motivates me most. My presence here is not only that of “a simple nurse”. I see my role as a call to love with tenderness, to listen and to exercise compassion.
It is not only a matter of caring for the sick. My work entails humanising certain situations in helping mothers, especially young mothers. When trust is present, they share certain situations. It is thus that I journey with certain couples where one or the other partner is HIV positive as well as young children who are infected with the virus. It is not always easy as you have to find the right words to communicate with them, to comfort them. I find comfort because I feel useful in granting them a bit of my time, a place where they can express themselves in confidence.
A life choice that gives rise to many questions
There is also the reality of being the only religious among these young nurses and doctors which demands that I be attentive to many things in order to be respected and to make sure that my responsibility is carried out with humility, accepting my own weaknesses as a woman and to be able to deal with the different situations. I notice that there is a good working atmosphere among us thanks to the acceptance of our own limitations and possibilities.
My life choice gives rise to many questions, especially concerning our three vows. My colleagues are surprised to see a Sister who receives a salary and other such questions arise. I see this as a way of helping them discover religious life.
Mon choix de vie entraîne toutes sortes de questions, surtout en ce qui concerne les trois vœux. Ils sont étonnés de rencontrer une religieuse qui a un travail rémunéré et beaucoup d’autres questions concrètes. Pour moi c’est une manière de leur faire découvrir la vie religieuse.
S. Noëlda Amédée, f.j.