FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

110affected area, the pains of living without one’s family, or the sentiments of those who are required to continue with relief efforts despite being affected by the disaster themselves.This nuclear disaster is the first of its kind in not only Japan but also the world. We carry the responsibility of ensuring that the radiation decontamination treatment guidelines formulated at FMU become the universal guidelines. We must now create a system that reaffirms the role that nurses play in serving as bridges between medical care teams. *Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all the specialists from afar who provided their support; for example, the long-term support of the nurses of Nagasaki University. Each day we work toward a speedy medical recovery of all those affected by the disaster.(1) The Day of the EarthquakeEver since my experience with the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of January 17, 1995, every year when that day came around, I would feel uneasy. This year, on the same date, I was in the break room at my workplace, watching a news report about the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and exchanging experiences about the same with my boss. My boss and I had grown close while providing medical care as members of the Fukushima Emergency Rescue Group dispatched to Kobe’s Nagata Ward immediately after the earthquake.At 2:46 pm on March 11, 2011, another earthquake struck. I was sleeping after returning from a night shift when my house suddenly began to violently tremble. I was alone at the time and attempted to confirm whether it indeed was an earthquake, but the quakes only grew more forceful and showed no signs of dying down. My furniture instantly toppled over, leaving me no place to walk. Once outside, I saw screaming mothers sitting on the roads with infants in their arms. The terrifying quakes struck one after the other. Then, all of sudden, it started to snow. I went back into my house and turned on the TV, hoping to gather some information, but all I saw was a stream of unbelievable images that gave me the shivers. They showed National Route 4, a main road commonly used by commuters, blocked by a landslide, and images of a tsunami swallowing entire communities. Worried that the hospital would be in utter chaos, I repeatedly attempted to contact them over phone and email, but all communication networks had crashed. The neighboring roads were jammed and people stood on the roadsides in the cold. It was impossible to use my private car that day, and considering how hard it would be to get to the hospital given the conditions of the roads, I decided to stay and help my community. Moreover, there were many elderly people in my locality who needed to be tended to. So together with my neighbors, I checked on the safety of local people, directed them to the evacuation center or places they needed to go if they were injured or sick, accumulated food, and cleaned up indoor areas to improve living conditions.(2) The Hospital after the DisasterImmediately after the earthquake, the hospital primarily focused on emergency procedures and implemented tertiary medical care systems. It suspended normal outpatient consultation and canceled all scheduled surgeries. Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) arrived from all over the country. Seeing DMATs in our hallways made me realize the state of emergency we were in, and I knew we were far from our routine protocols; all these thoughts ran chills down my spine. We decided to hold a plenary meeting with the faculty and employees to analyze information from all departments, which would then be transmitted to each division. This would help in giving nurses the necessary information about the state and direction of the hospital as well as peace of mind and a sense of solidarity with the other employees. As for our hospital lifelines, we still had electricity, but disruptions in the water supply forced us to be cautious about the use of water. In addition, because the supply of goods into the Tohoku region had ceased, nurses had to use every trick in the book to conserve resources while continuing to provide patient care. Nevertheless, we were able to handle the situation rather well, with everybody pitching in with ideas. We were able to secure a few days’ worth of food for the patients, but there was not one piece of candy in the stores. Moreover, it was hard for the hospital staff to find enough food and drink for themselves. In this regard, we are truly grateful to the School of Nursing, who amid all of this, started to cook for the employees. I was later told that they made rice balls until their hands became numb and red.Reflecting on the Experiences during the Great EarthquakeRumi HosakaOncology NurseCare during the Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Accident