FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

106tells us to voluntarily gather at the hospital when an earthquake with an intensity of nearly five or more on the Japanese scale occurs. The intensity of the earthquake in Fukushima was just under six. After the strongest tremor had died down, I immediately went to the hospital. The aftershocks continued as I made my way there and I could feel the tremors as I drove. I hurried to the hospital, seeing outlandish sights I had never seen before—a landslide beneath part of the national road causing a large truck to be swept down a cliff and a house on top of the slope precariously hanging over the side of the road. The national road I usually use to commute was impassable owing to a landslide, and the passable roads were jammed with cars. It took me more than an hour to drive what usually takes only about ten minutes. But I finally made it to the hospital.I work in the pediatric ward. Arriving there I saw children and their families standing worriedly in the hallways and nurses running through the hospital rooms at every aftershock. It was clearly an abnormal situation.(2) The Pediatric Ward after the EarthquakeNone of the hospital buildings collapsed, but the day of the earthquake marked a significant change in the hospital’s environment. To conserve energy, only some lighting was used; hence, the entire ward was dimly lit. To conserve water, water from the sink was diverted from the drain and reused in the toilets. Furthermore, to prepare for a lack of supplies, we reused everything we could, instead of discarding them. Because of the lack of water, we could not provide satisfactory cleansing care to infants, who normally would have a tub bath or bed bath every day. In these circumstances, we thought about methods of care so that each staff member could do their utmost for the patients.In the pediatric ward, mothers often accompany their hospitalized children and live in the hospital with them. Many of them, in addition to the strain of having a child in the hospital, could not contact other family members and check on their safety or the state of their homes. I believe that apart from changing the lives of these accompanying family members, the earthquake also placed a great psychological burden upon them. The children’s responses to the earthquake were varied. Some children clung onto their mothers at every aftershock afraid that they would go away, whereas others played and laughed as if nothing had happened. Even children of the same age had different reactions. Middle-school students would cry uncontrollably at night, some children became very quiet and never smiled, and others showed changes in physical condition such as getting stomach aches. I expected children who experience this type of crisis to express the trepidation they hold inside them through physical changes, emotions such as anger, or crying. But I did not know what to make of the unexpected reactions of the children that seemed fine, but would still cry uncontrollably at night. The earthquake that even brought fear to adults must have caused great anxiety in these children, and the change in the hospital environment after the earthquake must have, at the very least, left a deep impression on their minds.(3) Looking Back at the DisasterThis earthquake made me realize the great strength we can call up through manpower. Everybody thought that the national road would be impassable for quite some time because of the landslide; however, thanks to those who worked day and night, it was functional in just a few days. Supermarket managers, who were themselves affected by the disaster, still opened their stores during the continuing aftershocks to provide us with food and supplies. The situation was such that, without the sense of cooperation in each and every resident, we would never be able to overcome the disaster.Even in the hospital, each staff member thought about what to do for his or her patients during these difficult circumstances. Seeing the reality outside our experiences, we might have stood motionless in a daze for the first few moments. But thereafter, we tirelessly did whatever we could, giving our all to overcome this situation, and thanks to that, I believe we have our old lives back today.We realize how easy our life was only when we can no longer lead that ordinary life. After the earthquake, many people did not merely stand by in shock, faced with the new reality of this unprecedented disaster, but instead worked hard to resume their normal lives. In all honesty, I cannot think of what role I played in this. When I saw the different reactions of those children after the earthquake, I was not sure of the type of care I was expected to give those children so that they could overcome their fears and worries. In fact, I am unsure of the care I did give. But I believe that because I also experienced this disaster, there are some contributions that only I could have made. I hope to ponder over these experiences, think about further requirements in the nursing profession, and apply all that I have learned and experienced to my nursing career.Care during the Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Accident