Local grad helps provide relief in the wake of typhoon

After graduating high school, Anna Rathbun became a nurse so she could help people. Well, last month, the 2006 Anoka High School graduate extended a helping hand all the way to the Philippines.

She traveled to the Asian island Dec. 9-21 to provide medical relief to victims of the super typhoon that tore through the Philippines Nov. 8.

Anna Rathbun (right) and Paolo Montenegro triage patients to be seen by a doctor while providing relief in the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda. Photo courtesy of Anna Rathbun

Anna Rathbun (right) and Paolo Montenegro triage patients to be seen by a doctor while providing relief in the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda. Photo courtesy of Anna Rathbun

As part of a Registered Nurse Response Network team of medical personnel, Rathbun joined nurses from across the United States, journeying throughout the Philippines by van or by boat and setting up makeshift clinics, triaging patients and attending to their medical needs.

“We treated everything from respiratory issues to wound care. I even delivered a baby,” Rathbun said.

But her work on the island, she said, went beyond meeting physical needs.

“We focused a lot on stress debriefing. Many people appeared to be exhausted from experiencing ongoing trauma and stress related to the typhoon, especially those who have lost everything,” Rathbun said.

“We drew pictures and played games with the kids and at the end of the day, we would play a game of soccer or basketball and many local adults joined in on the fun. It was great to see them smile, have fun and forget about what was going on around them, even if it was only for a moment.”

And Filipinos expressed their gratitude to the doctors and nurses by giving them hundreds of sea shells collected from the sea shore by grateful children and their families.

“The thing that struck me the most was the generosity and kindness of everyone we met,” Rathbun said after returning to the U.S. “The kids (on the island of Olotayan) saw that we had picked up some shells on the beach and spent the rest of the day giving us all the shells they could find. The local families also started to bring us their biggest shells from their homes and wanted us to have them.”

While the shells serve as a tangible reward for the care Rathbun helped provide those typhoon victims, perhaps a greater reward lies within.

“This was a life-changing experience,” she said.

She insisted that she will be “one of the first to sign up the next time there is a need for medical relief after a disaster,” Rathbun said.

Rathbun currently works in the intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, and after helping to provide disaster relief, she sees the world through different eyes, she said.

“I became a nurse to help people, and those who have lost everything to a disaster need help the most,” Rathbun said. “When people are truly in need, we should help them in any way that we can, from the smallest donation to hands-on work – whatever we can give.”

For more information about the Registered Nurse Response Network or to make a donation, visit www.NationalNursesUnited.org.

According to Rathbun, all donations go toward sending more nurses to disaster stricken areas, including the Philippines.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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