Monday, April 4, 2011

A Nurse's Note vol.3 "The Red Flag"

This is a blog entry by a Japanese nurse who joined emergency response team at shelters in damaged area.  Originally, these entries were written in Japanese, and spoken widely in Japanese.  I decided to translate and summarize her notes in English, so that more people can understand what is actually going on in Japan.

She is a nurse who works in Tokyo, and her hospital formed emergency medical response team after series of massive earthquake and tsunami hit Eastern Japan on March 11, 2011.
You can find the previous entry in here: A Nurse's Note vol.2 "Me At First Day".


My impression of Rikuzen Takata was muddy ground and mountains of debris.

The area was completely swept.  There was nothing, or a few buildings made it look like a ghost town.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw mud and ship parts were sticking into the 5th floor of a 5-story building.

And what is that smell? Some burned-like smell came through my nose.
It was very quiet.  All I heard was broadcasting helicopters and Self Defense helicopters hovering over our head.
Snow was covering over debris, and it kept snowing.  I did not feel cold, and I was shaking from fear, not cold.

I gave one minute of silence to victims, and thought I should have come here earlier.

We were guided around the town before heading to shelters and hospitals.
"Here it was shopping street."
"Here it was a post office."
"Here it was a good ramen restaurant."
"Here it was a community center."
"Here it was a preschool."

They were all mountains of debris.

50 feet high black tsunami came back and forth, and swallowed everything.
It was a moment everybody was preparing to evacuate or evacuating.
If they could blame to somebody for all of this damage, they could feel better by releasing ugly feeling, but they cannot even do that.
People in town prayed and admired the ocean several times a year in local ritual ceremonies. They always appreciated to the ocean. However.....  The guide was crying.

I was just looking up the cloudy sky so that I wouldn't cry.
I kept walking  holding my hands tightly.

Black and white photographs, and greeting cards with baby picture were flown through my steps by wind.

And I started realizing red flags were waving every one or two steps I made.  It was just uncountable number of red flags.

"These red flags were for the location dead body was found." The guide said.

It was so hard.

A old lady was standing in front of a red flag. She was about the same age with my grandmother.

"Ms. Nurse from Tokyo. There was a house the grandpa here built after WWII. He never got sick, but he died in tsunami."

I could not hold my tears any more.

A leading nurse flew to me and pulled me behind a car. She scolded me for crying, but I decided to be honest and true to myself from now on.

What has been broadcasted on TV is controlled, but still very shocking.

What has really been going on here is much worse, and it was a hell.

While we were guided around, the Self Defense people dug out debris, and they were always finding another body.

I will never forget what I saw there, and I must not.

It was debris, but had been somebody's life or treasure a few days ago. And more bodies found under that.
We all put hands together and prayed every time, with the Self Defense teams.

At shelters, I was busy measuring blood pressures of senior people and having consultation.
I probably was not smiling.
I kept myself busy so that I could measure blood pressure as many as possible before the dark.

An old lady held my hand while I was taking her blood pressure, and said "You are about the age with my grandchild, Ms. Nurse. It is a warm hand."  She kept her eyes closed.

An old man thanked me again and again, putting his both hands together.

Another old man was trying to get up from his futon with his best smile.

Children eating small rice balls so appreciatively.

A baby sleeping wrapped in a blanket.

I found a lot of people had difficulties in sleep at gym, or with anxiety of missing family members, and had high blood pressure.

Before the total dark came to us, my arms were so heavy and I could not lift them.
We visited more than 10 shelters, but there were much more shelters and medical locations we could not go on that day.
Somebody told me later that I measured several hundreds people's blood pressure on that day, but I felt like there were more seniors in need.

It was already the night, after I used bathroom in the morning once.

After the meeting to review and plan for tomorrow, I was very tired and shocked to see the reality.
We had no place to sleep in full shelters, so we slept in a trailer house next to the morgue.

I could not sleep even though I was exhausted.
I decided to listen to music on iPod, look at pictures of my friends, typed this entry, and read emails from my friends on my cellphone, crying inside my blanket until dawn.


At Rikuzen Takata

Continued to vol.4 "Children and Seniors".


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