Day 2: Sunshine, stories and songs that will bring you to your feet

Winding down day two in the beautiful (and sunny!) Big Easy and what a day it was! The 12 of us split up again this morning as 8 of us went to the work site and 4 went to volunteer on the mobile unit and at the Lower Ninth Ward Health Clinic for the day. I went to the work site, under dressed with few layers as it was chillier and breezier than I had expected. The sun did come out though (gloriously!) as two teammates, Sarah and Sara, and I painted the exterior of the homeowner’s house today. A meticulous task, but rewarding as we saw the finished product by the time we left this afternoon! Tomorrow and Thursday, we anticipate finishing painting the interior of the house as well.

This afternoon after we finished at the site, we met our fellow teammates at the Touro Infirmary here in the Garden District of the city. Touro was one of the hardest hit hospitals as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that ensued. We walked in with all of our work clothes on, paint on our clothes and faces, and dust in our hair, but transformed into Hopkins nursing students with a quick cleanup and uniform change in the hospital restroom. We then toured the hospital’s emergency department, where many of us will be volunteering over the next couple of nights.

We were welcomed by Denise, a staff member who showed us footage of Touro’s relief efforts in the days immediately following Katrina. Then, a nurse named Suzanne gave her compelling story of hardship, sweat and blood (literally) and the seemingly insurmountable trials that came along with the hurricane. For 5 days post-storm, the staff at Touro cared for the hundreds of patients at the hospital, moving them up and down flights of stairs to be evacuated via helicopter. Suzanne told her story through tears, saying that her experience post-Katrina has forever colored her vision of nursing. But she also proudly said that not a single patient’s life was lost in those harrowing days in the hospital, without electricity, water, and in 100+ degree September heat. We were all deeply moved by Suzanne’s story. I surely won’t forget the expression on her face when she spoke of certain things she saw or patients that she’ll remember forever. Stories like hers only further confirm to me that nursing is not only a profession, it’s a calling and gives purpose to one’s life!

So backing up a little bit, I can’t sign off this entry without mentioning last night’s red beans and rice and bluegrass experience at a local bar. Several of us went to take advantage of the $1.00 red beans and rice deal (in line with a nursing student’s budget for sure!) but we all also ended up loving the impromptu gathering of musicians with all kinds of instruments, showing up at the bar to jam and have a good time. They even played my favorite song, “Wagonwheel” — it had me on my feet dancing by the end!

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