1. Melhado, Lisa

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In the aftermath of the December 26, 2004, tsunami that wreaked havoc in eight countries on two continents, rescue teams from around the world have worked to comfort and care for the millions of people affected. The focus of care shifted in the weeks following the disaster. By February one goal of relief workers was to repair damaged infrastructures: rebuilding hospitals and enhancing public services, with the aim of helping victims regain the ability to help themselves.


In early January 2005 a team of volunteers-25 trauma-specialist physicians and nurses from the International Medical Corps (IMC)-headed for Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, 150 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake that triggered the tsunami. Supported in its efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the IMC is a nonprofit medical relief organization based in Santa Monica, California. It sent the trauma specialists in order to address the needs of the survivors, many of whom require amputations after having been trapped for long periods.


Jeanie Schmidt, an IMC volunteer and RN from San Jose, California, is in Banda Aceh, and describes the effort under way. "There is a massive global effort to get the hospitals cleaned out, stocked, and functioning," writes Schmidt, describing a task made even more difficult by a lack of power and reliable means of communication. The multinational teams have forced rescue workers to contend with many languages, procedures, and medications. Despite a noticeable "competition" among workers from the various countries, Schmidt says everyone is doing the best they can.


When asked of the lessons learned from her experiences in Banda Aceh, Schmidt says one of the biggest was the "realization that we can't fix things yet. This is not going to be done overnight." To Schmidt, nurses dealing with disasters on this level need "immense patience and faith in a power much bigger than oneself." The people she has encountered in Banda Aceh "are so gracious, kind, and appreciative. . . . Everyone has lost some or many. They are all such wonderful, beautiful people to us and each other. It makes me happy to be of help to them." For more information on the IMC and its rescue efforts, please visit

FIGURE. IMC voluntee... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. IMC volunteer nurse Jeanie Schmidt (second from left) with a Danish Emergency Management Agency nurse and local medical students in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
FIGURE. Internationa... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. International Medical Corps (IMC) volunteer nurse Jeanie Schmidt looks after patients in the recovery room in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.