By: Jenna Atchison, RN 


This June I was able to experience a long-time dream of mine - I was called to be sent out with the Canadian Red Cross field hospital, to deploy to east Africa and work in a cholera treatment centre.

In my day-to-day Ottawa life I work as a pediatric nurse and this would be a big step out of my comfort zone - but I was ready. Last year I finished my training and now it was time to put all I had learned to work. I was excited, overwhelmed and loving the opportunity to experience nursing in a whole new environment.
 
When I arrived, I hit the ground running. The patient load was high and we needed all hands on deck. It was through these busy times that the Red Cross team pulled together and formed strong bonds of trust and friendship with the local staff. They were amazing colleagues who helped me understand the culture and communicate with the people we were treating, along with being skilled health care providers. I am so thankful as I reflect on the entire experience that I was able to meet each and every one of the amazing doctors, nurses, local Red Cross staff and volunteers and support personnel within the treatment centre.
 
One experience stands out for me.

I had been working in the observation tent most days where we treated patients as they arrived and the doctors assessed each patient for the signs and symptoms of cholera. A severely dehydrated toddler came into the observation area to be treated for suspected cholera. We had difficulty keeping the child awake as she was so sick from the severity of her symptoms. The local doctor quickly came to her side with multiple local nurses and myself there to help. He quickly wrote orders for IV fluids while the nurses established IV access. The nurses gave the desperately needed fluid while the doctor spoke with the patient's family. The local Red Cross volunteers brought over supplies and oral rehydration while making sure we had all we needed.

Everyone had a role to play and it was through each person's contributions that we were able to save her little life.
 
I look back on the entire situation now and I am so grateful and thankful to the entire team in that treatment centre as it is because of them that I was able to go back and see that same little girl sitting up the next day drinking her oral rehydration with all the energy and attitude of a normal toddler. Knowing that we made a difference for that little girl and her family solidified for me the amazing work we were doing at the treatment centre.