FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

112(1) Day-Shift Employees Working Overtime and Stranded Students: Linking Emotions and RiceAt 2:46 pm on March 11, our office on the third floor of the Fukushima Medical University Hospital, was struck by a violent tremor it had never experienced before. This was nearly a year after I was given full-time charge of new employee training at the nursing department’s administrative office. The quake tossed our desks that were arranged together and toppled upright hardware such as computers and file cabinets. The quakes continued for what truly seemed like three minutes to everybody, and having no place to shelter myself, I crouched between a locker and a door.When the tremor seemed to have died down, the nursing department director assistant director, and the rest of the staff rushed out of the room to the departments they were in charge of. The nursing department’s assistant director of general affairs organized the arrival of numerous ambulances for emergency outpatient care, and returned to the office to oversee our handling of the situation. The TV was our only source of news so we did not know about the extent of damage in Fukushima, our home prefecture. The nursing department then decided to prolong the working hours of both day- and night-shift nurses.It was then that we were confronted with the problem of insufficient food supply for the day-shift workers. The hospital shop had run out of food. At around 7 pm, as the assistant director of the nursing department was discussing medical care, I suddenly remembered my cooking lessons at nursing school. “There has to be a rice cooker in the School of Nursing. We can use that to cook!”At around the same time, K chief, an office manager at the School of Nursing, had a similar thought. About 20 School of Nursing students were still at school, taking supplementary classes during spring break. After the earthquake, there was a major gridlock on National Route 4 that was visible from the school’s windows, and city buses could not pass through. As the aftershocks continued, the students watching the news about the earthquake and tsunami grew anxious and decided to spend the night at school. K chief realized that the students must be fed. But when we went to the kitchen, we only found two handfuls of rice, salt, miso, and plastic wrap. The only food item left in the hospital shop was potato chips. At 5 pm, faculty living in the Hourai Housing Complex right next to the hospital brought us 15 kilograms of rice from their houses. Since we had plastic wraps, we could hygienically store food. “So let us cook it all and make rice balls!”Our cooking in the School of Nursing was fortunate to have a number of lucky breaks. Hearing from the school dean that we might have disruptions in the water supply, we used all of the kitchen pots and kettles to store sufficient water. Because we still had electricity, we were able to use all of the small electric rice cookers in the dormitory (an electrician from facility management ensured that we did not plug in too many cookers into one outlet). We were able to gather about 30 people, including faculty and students who had come from the nearby dorm, which was just the right amount of help. The only question was whether the rice would be sufficient for all of us.The administrative office of the nursing department was puzzled over ensuring a steady supply of rice. The assistant director of the nursing department suggested that the hospital’s nutrition manager should stockpile rice. So we immediately asked the medical department to help arrange for some rice. Hearing our discussion, the specialist faculty nurses, who usually make rounds between the School of Nursing and the hospital’s nursing department, served as liaison for our cooking squad at the school. At 8 pm, our first line of 100 rice balls was served from the School of Nursing’s kitchen and carried by the students’ wagons to the nursing department. These 100 precious rice balls were prepared earlier than everybody’s expectations and our success in doing so brought us to tears.There are 20 wards in the hospital and each ward had about 20 employees. We distributed five rice balls Struggles of a Rice Ball Chief: Providing Food to Employees after the EarthquakeYasuko SuganumaAdministrative Officer, Department of Nursing800–1,100 rice balls a dayCare during the Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Accident