Sunday, December 14, 2014

Florence Nightingale - The Lady with a Lamp

Florence Nightingale - The Lady with a Lamp
Dr Abe V Rotor

Light a Candle

In the dark look at the sky and the stars
They’re living gems, a thousand eyes;
They soothe the soul, heal wounds into scars –
They come to mingle with fireflies.

Short is life; man is but a living dust,
But many great things come to pass.
Someday you shall learn from the sages,
Those who live through the ages.

Not for glory, they fill the emptiness;
Go light a candle in gladness.
Fireflies and stars in the night are one,
Like flowers that bear the sun.

Who is Florence Nightingale? She is one of the most famous women of the world. She is the founder of the nursing profession

Her first patient was a dog. And this is the story.

One day when she was a girl she happened to pass by a wounded sheep-dog on the roadside.  The shepherd told her that his dog met an accident and broke a leg. The wound was so bad that the dog would have to be killed since this was the custom in those days.

She did not delay; she made splints and bandaged the wound, and not for long the dog was running about again. The shepherd was very thankful to Florence, and when she became famous he would tell people that her first patient had been his dog, Cap.

In 1854 war broke in Crimea in the southern part of Russia. It was fought between Russia on one side and Turkey, helped by Britain and France, on the other. Florence was then 34 years old, and had convinced her rich parents to let her become a nurse.

The conditions prevailing in the Crimean War were getting worse. There were no hospitals, or if there were, they were poorly managed. There were few doctors and nurses were more of housekeepers of hospitals. It is not like the hospitals we know today. There were as many wounded soldiers dying due to lack of proper medical attention, as there were in the battlefield, a condition the British soldiers were experiencing.

On receiving this news the Minister of War in England wrote a letter to Florence requesting her to organize a team of nurses to go to Crimea, which is more than a thousand miles away, and would take weeks to reach through poor roads and rough seas.

She accepted the challenge and immediately set forth with 38 women volunteers, most were devoted nurses from religious hospitals. They braved the stormy sea, and when they were on the way, the Battle of Balaclava was being fought. This is the famous battle in British history known as The Charge of the Light Brigade.

This is how a survivor described the battle.

“Because of the mistake about what they were supposed to do, these six hundred men galloped along a valley more than a mile long, with Russian cannon shooting at them from all sides. Many of them were killed and wounded, but they never stopped until they had ridden right up to the cannon and captured them.”

The wounded soldiers from the Battle of Balaclava were among the first patients of Florence and her volunteers.

The life of nurses was very hard in those days. They attended to many household and kitchen works. There was very little time to rest. What made the condition worse was because women in those days were not equally treated with men. There was discrimination, especially by the doctors who were all males.

But Florence persevered, so with the remaining volunteers and new nurses she trained. The hospitals became very clean and orderly. She established a system of management. There were enough supplies. Gardens were cultivated to supply the hospitals with fresh fruits and vegetables. There were fewer patients dying than before and they were recovering much faster.

Florence would be holding a lamp in the middle of the night, or into the wee hours in the morning, just to check the conditions of the patients. This scene became the symbol of the modern nursing profession.

Here in our country we have many battles to be fought. But these battles are not those in Crimea many years back. The enemy is different yet the objective is the same – the welfare of the people. We need fighters against poverty, disease and hopelessness. We need fighters who give themselves unselfishly, voluntarily without fear.

We have leaders in the Philippines in the like of Florence Nightingale. One of them is Dr. Fe del Mundo, a medical doctor who founded the hospitals for children. These hospitals are among the best managed government hospitals in the Philippines today. Because of these hospitals thousands and thousands of children have been saved. Many more patients were given proper medical attention in the last fifty years or so. Many doctors and nurses have been trained to follow the example set by Dr. Del Mundo.

People who have apparently lost hope find the lamp in the middle of the night burning bright. Florence Nightingale and Fe del Mundo are making their rounds. ~

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