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Improv to Improve the POW Camp?

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

Jungle medical improv --- no joke

For many, summer is a time to hunker down and read a good novel. Instead, I'm re-reading a non-fiction history/action/adventure book about the untold story of #women (specifically focusing on the nurses) trapped in the Philippines during #WorldWarII, "We Band of Angels," by Elizabeth M. Norman. It's a reality page-turner, on all accounts.

(I realize, #VeteransDay is November 11, and #NationalHireAVetDay was July 25, so I'm a little early or a little late, depending on your view.)

To the point, I'm struck, once again, by the bravery and selfless sacrifice of so many, especially the women, who certainly never expected to be faced with such circumstances when they enlisted for a bit of 'travel and adventure,' in the mid-20th c.

The healthcare teams involved were mainly men, of course, and their work included the responsibility of serving the wounded, no matter what--- in this case, that meant in the midst of the jungle with no actual shelter, few supplies, or medicines, while being under heavy overhead attacks.

Later, after General MacArthur was forced to surrender the Philippines, their duty transferred to a #POW camp, where > 2 more years passed, with many more civilians, trapped by the war, were added to the camp, plus the wounded soldiers. These years were marked by near starvation and the illnesses that emanate, but they served even as they were also suffering.

Talk about improvisation! The stories included the tales of how, with each new month, supplies and food rations were cut, so everyone had to improvise... or perish. At one point, this included eating weeds fried in cold cream!

Looking back, head nurse, Josie Nesbit wrote that she had encouraged the nurses with these thoughts, "...We reasoned that if we hoped to remain integrated emotionally, our first and primary duty was to carry on in our most professional nurses..." despite the hellish surroundings.

Considering the recent pandemic, our front-line nurses (and others who served in healthcare), will see themselves mirrored in these testimonies.

Those that survived, clung to the fact they were part of a larger and more enduring truth---despite the sort of duty none of them could foresee when they agreed to serve as caregivers.

Although I was retired from bedside nursing by the time COVID surfaced, like most nurses, I'd seen a lot of misery, pain, and death that I don't talk about.

Nevertheless, even on the most difficult, heart-wrenching days, I know I was able to make a positive difference in the lives I touched and I will never regret my decision to become a nurse.

Once a nurse, always a nurse.

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