FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

113chap.IIFukushima Medical University Record of Activities [Notes and Messages]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Lineper ward. Covering the entire hospital was our first priority; thus, the assistant director of the nursing department and I went around distributing the rice balls. While we were still passing out the first line of rice balls, five to six bags of rice, 30 kilograms each, arrived at the school kitchen. Cooking nearly four liters at a time by using three rice cookers and several electric rice cookers, we could make 200 rice balls in two hours. K chief thought “This is the ticket!” Our second line of 200 rice balls was distributed just past 10 pm and we did not stop cooking until after midnight.(2) Rice Balls for Other Departments and External Support: The Nursing Department Helps the Entire HospitalThese rice balls had originally been made for the night-shift workers and students; however, three days after the earthquake, our rice ball provision had become the lifeline of the hospital. Physicians were even asking the nursing department “Where can we get these rice balls?” On March 12 and 13, 200 to 300 rice balls were distributed every two hours (about 1,100 per day) throughout the hospital by our School of Nursing cooking squad. They were passed around the hospital wards, hospital departments, and the Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs), who arrived on March 12 from across the country.In addition, for the plenary meetings of multidisciplinary professionals held three times a day to discuss necessary measures during the disaster, we prepared rice balls so that attendees could take some on their way out. They were absolutely thrilled with the gesture. Shortly after, news about the rice balls became a topic of relief in the plenary meetings. Most of Fukushima City had lost its water supply; convenience stores and supermarkets were closed, and it was hard for city residents to obtain food. With most of our hospital employees living in Fukushima City, they treasured the rice balls that we distributed throughout the hospital. I believe our work helped create a sense of security in the hospital.On March 13, a group of support nurses arrived from Fukushima Prefectural Aizu General Hospital. A nurse technician named T, who was made my assistant, helped me in moving around the hospital with a wagon and passing out rice balls. As the hospital became aware of the increase in the supply of rice balls, it became important to figure out how to distribute the rice balls to the departments that needed them, without any omissions. T took charge of writing a roster for the rice ball distribution, which was started the previous day by the assistant director of the nursing department. She arranged her distribution roster not according to the organization chart but the hospital floor plan. Contract employees and special departments, such as the central control room, janitor’s station, and decontamination ward, do not appear on the organization chart. But they were all actively involved in tackling this crisis. T and I made rounds, politely enquiring how many rice balls each office needed. Thanks to T’s calm dedication, we were able to cater to 55 distribution locations in the hospital.On March 14, the hospital cafeteria reopened and we tried to supply as many rice balls as we could from the outside. At 7 pm, 10,000 rice balls arrived as aid supplies. Thereafter, the number of rice balls needed to be significantly increased because offices all over the hospital were demanding for more. Our School of Nursing student volunteers continued making rice balls until March 17. Several other aid supplies in addition to the rice balls started to come in. We revised the hospital rice ball distribution list, which also became useful in information sharing between the nursing and administrative departments. I had become the head of the rice ball program, which led recognize the work of the nurses, the nursing department, and other hospital departments once again.(3) Looking Back on Our WorkReflecting on our response to the crisis, I learned the importance of storing food and the wisdom and dedication of flesh-and-blood humans to solve a given problem. I am proud that we were able to overcome these harsh times with the help of my wonderful colleagues in the hospital’s nursing department, administrative department, the School of Nursing’s faculty, support staff, and student volunteers. Almost three months have passed since the great earthquake. Fukushima still has a long way to go toward recovery. But I hope that the warm support we have received from across the country and the humble contributions of the Fukushima Medical University Hospital, a disaster base hospital, can help get us there sooner.Activity Records of the Fukushima Medical University Hospital