Thursday, January 28, 2010

Following My Heart... I Quit My Job As News Anchor & Booked a 1-Way Ticket to Haiti to Join Medical Team

Yep, it's true. I stepped down from my role as the weekend News Anchor and booked a 1-way ticket to Haiti! Call it crazy, but following your heart is rather liberating! Below are some answers to some recent questions I've been asked.

1) How long have you been a nurse and what's your experience?
At 29-years old, I graduated from St. Scholastica’s post-baccalaureate nursing program last August. I passed the Minnesota boards shortly after and officially became a licensed RN. I have currently been working on Grad school at St. Scholastica in the master’s program for Family Nurse Practitioner. While I am still pretty green in my nursing career, I have had some wonderful experiences at St. Mary’s hospital in Duluth and HCMC’s Emergency Department in Minneapolis that I hope will have prepared me for what is to come. Additionally, I have experience doing medical triage and setting up clinics in third world environments. Just two weeks ago I returned with a group of Students from St. Scholastica from a humanitarian medical mission in the jungles of Belize.

2) Why quit Newscenter? Why not just take a leave of absense and come back after awhile?
This weekend will be my last weekend as a news anchor for the NewsCenter. This has been a hard decision for me. I’ve been with the NewsCenter now for about 4 years. I work with some amazing people and have truly enjoyed my time there. I will equally miss working beside my dear adopted mom Michelle Lee.The big bright studio lights, the cameras, and deep connection to our community have been extremely rewarding and exciting. My leaving is truly bittersweet. So, I still haven’t answered your question as to why quit and not just take a leave of absence. The answer is partially related to how long I will be gone. I’m not sure how long I will be spending in Haiti. I booked a 1-way into the country and am not sure when I will return. After just having been gone to Belize for 2 weeks and now this, I’m discovering that my heart is truly with serving those people most in need. It seems unreasonable and unfair to the NewsCenter and my peers there to just continue popping back in and out every time my next nursing “calling” seems to surface. Stepping down from my role as weekend anchor not only gives others the opportunity to advance, but it also gives me the opportunity to advance my career as a nurse, whether that be just through my time in Haiti or upon returning to Duluth. I have discussed the possibility of doing freelance work with the NewsCenter when I get back and I may be able to provide some interesting first hand reports from the field live through a global phone or following my journey. Afterall, there will always be part journalist that runs through these veins. However, right now I have got to follow my heart into an open-ended journey to where I am needed most… and that is as a nurse administering to those undergoing great suffering. I guess it boils down to knowing that deep within my core, there is a longing to serve people on a more intimate and deep level. As a registered nurse, my audience will be one patient at a time and the news I will be delivering will be directly related to their body and health. My media background will hopefully one day provide for a nice blend of direct patient care as a nurse practitioner and the ability to provide medical correspondence to the community. For, now, it’s a new chapter.

3. Maybe the answer leads into the next question: how long do you plan to stay in Haiti?
I have booked a 1-way ticket into Haiti and will stay there until I am needed or until I have nothing left to give. I do understand that there are certain responsibility constraints here that I must attend to, so I can’t stay forever. I have pets, own a house, and am currently in the middle of Nurse Practitioner School that is all being put on hold. When the time is right, I’ll return.

4) Some of the logistics: Who/what will you volunteer with? Where will you live? Will this be volunteer work?
The logistics… this is the piece making my head spin. I’ve spent the last few night up till 2am getting details put together and organizing the who, how, when, and the where of the mission. The what part is pretty clear J Everything is very fluid and changing daily. At this point, I leave on a 10:15 flight from Duluth on Monday. I will stage and get briefed on everything there. On Thursday, bright in the morning at 6:45 I will be boarding my flight from Miami to Port au Prince. Once in Port au Prince, I will be rendezvousing with a group called Team Rubicon. http://blog.teamrubiconhaiti.org/ This is a group of completely unpaid, self-financed volunteers that’s composed of former marines, soldiers, firefighters, medics, RN’s, doctors and PA’s. Their base camp is with Jesuit Relief Services and each day they venture out to the supposed “denied” areas of the Port au Prince, treating, triaging, evacuating patients, and providing direct care to those still waiting for medical attention. (More about Team Rubicon… from their website “What's with the name? Simple. The Rubicon was a small stream that separated Gaul (France) and ancient Rome. On January 11th, Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and it marked the point of no return. This Sunday, January 17th, our 4 man team will cross the Artibonite River, separating the Dominican Republic and Haiti, carrying crucial medicine and supplies to the people of Haiti. Once across, we will be irrevocably committed to our task.”) As I cross the border into Haiti, so will my task be… a devoted commitment to the people of Haiti. I will be with this team for about 4 days before, bringing along my own food, water, shelter, and a supply of medical equipment.

While in Port au Prince, I will also have another mission. One of our northland ties to the country is the Kako Foundation (http://www.kakofoundation.org/ ). I have been speaking with some individuals up here who are connected to the Haitian music school, which lost its structure in the earthquake. I am happy to say they have already secured an outdoor school to reopen their education program. None of the children have been seen by a medical professional yet. One of my tasks upon arriving in Port au Prince will be locating the outdoor school and beginning triage with the children there. Hopefully, I will be able to bring good news of health back to their foundation members here in Duluth.

Once done in the capital, I will be traveling north to the city of Cap Haitien. I will join forces with EFCA's TouchGlobal Crisis Response team http://efcacrisisresponse.blogspot.com/ and Vision of Hope Ministries http://www.vohmhaiti.com/ operating out of the hospital in Milot called Hôpital Sacré Coeur. It has become the major source for refugees fleeing the epicenter. (http://www.crudem.org/ ). I’ll be meeting with my cohorts there where we will have access to food, water. My sleeping arrangements are a bit unclear at this point. I will either be living out of a tent or staying in a barrack style-building that is shared with a number of the now post-earthquake orphans. I’ll be living out of 3 pairs of scrubs, a pair of boxers, and 4 clean shirts. I’ll have a water filter, a weeks supply of water, high protein/calorie food, a global phone, a camera, and a plethora of medical supplies. Camera aside, (because there will always be a part of me that’s a journalist at heart) everything that I’m packing has great significance. Every piece of space and weight in my pack is highly valuable… for instance, I snapped my toothbrush in half because the whole thing takes up unneeded weight. Right now, the most important things I can fill my pack with are antibiotics, wound care supplies, and sterile surgical equipment for the hospital in Cap Haitien. I finished my series of vaccines today at the Travel Clinic including Typhoid, a Hep B booster, and prophylactics for Malaria. I’ve already got pretty much everything else from my other foreign travel. Hand sanitizer and use of protective barriers will be crucial once down there to prevent getting sick myself among the rampant disease. That’s the basics of the logistics and there are certainly still more questions than answers. In a news career that has been filled with carefully pieced together stories, detailed press releases and meticulously planned shows, this is one story that is certainly unscripted and yet to be written. There’s no teleprompter to get me through this one!

5) And then there's the why: why do this? And why now? Why Haiti and not another country that needs medical help?
This is the best question of them all. Why? My answer, is why not? I sit at work comfortably at my desk, reading the latest wire updates on the quake, cruise through the video and the stories, and then go sit on the set in the studio and read the headlines on the latest death toll numbers and the incredible medical needs of the people there. In good consciousness, I can no longer sit back and read those headlines knowing I have the skills they so desperately need right now and the ability to make a difference. Sure, it will take some sacrifice… everyone down there is sacrificing something when they leave to serve, but what we leave behind will never be even close to what the good people Haiti have lost, and they didn’t volunteer for it either. In a matter of seconds, their entire lives have been uprooted, shaken to pieces, their family members are gone, their homes, jobs, livelihood, and health have all been destroyed. All I’m giving up is my comfort for a little while. My faith at this point in my life is at an all time high. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve experienced. It’s as though I am taking the pieces of my life, throwing them up into the air, and trusting my God that they will all land exactly where they are supposed to. I know that God can move mountains, I’ve seen him do it in my own life before. But, I also know you have to show up with a shovel, ready to help dig. That’s what I’m doing… suiting up, showing up, teaming up, and looking up. I know that there will be times that I’m hungry, but I trust I’ll be provided with a sense of fullness. I might not have the best sleeping conditions, but I will certainly wake up rested. I may be confronted with fear, but I will be given courage. I may be exposed to doubt, but I will be given relief and assurance that I am exactly where I’m supposed to do, doing exactly what I was made for. I have never been so proud to be a nurse or a follower of Christ.

I also want to make note of the power of spiritual healing that is taking place down there right now. There are miracles taking place at this very minute, miracles that the world has never seen, miracles that I want to be a part of. I truly believe in the enormous power of what God can do. Although many of these people surely must feel forsaken, they are in the midst of seeing the global community lift them back up, fill their hearts with love, provide them with hope, and remind them that they have not been forgotten, they have not been discarded, and in fact there is a God that loves and adores them... and who’s heart breaks for them. That hope only comes from above. It is because of his inspiration that ordinary folks like me here from the Northland will be able to do big things. We will be his hands, we will be his feet that carry us to where we’re supposed to be, we will be his gentle heart to remind these people that they are in fact not alone. I suspect that when it finally starts to rain down there it will finally be God taking a step back and weeping for his children. However, those very tears that he sheds will continue to bring hope and healing to the people because with the rain it will bring access to water to areas still dry and barren.

While I travel down there alone, I travel with a team of supporters here in the Northland. My faith group at the Vineyard Church is providing a ton of prayers and spiritual support. Jeff Sorvik with Anchor Point church has helped with a lot of the coordinating. The folks of Trailfitters graciously donated a lightweight tent that will be able to house myself, medical teams that will follow, and eventually become a temporary house for a family in need. The College of Saint Scholastica is helping to arrange the accumulation of medical supplies and I suspect that will be just the tip of the iceberg of support flowing in from our area. Know that the support will need to continue. It will be years and years before Haiti can rebuild its government, food system, water system, housing, transportation, educational, and medical system. It will only be through the financial and service efforts of the world that they will begin to see prosperity. After the wave of us medical professionals starts to ebb, a new wave will be needed… one of removal. Removing the rubble and clearing the slate for a new and more prosperous Haiti. Then, they’ll need the rebuilders. I suspect there will be many from the Northland that we will eventually see sharing the ideals of Minnesota nice and general human compassion with the good Haitian people, long into the future.

You bring up a good point about why Haiti. Everyone has Haiti on their mind right now, it’s right in our faces. Aside from this being the site for one of the world’s worst global disasters it’s also the poorest third world nation in the Western Hemisphere. Right now, their need is immediate. It’s crucial, life and death treatment that needs to be performed. An entire country needs to be rebuilt. That being said, there are certainly long lists of other countries throughout the world that are in dire need of aid and support. There is part of me that does fear some of these other needy countries will suffer as the attention shifts to Haiti. My hope is that these countries at least have food and water systems available to keep them sustained for the short term. My fear is that their medical support including volunteers and supplies will become greatly diminished in the short term as well. For right now, Haiti is where I’m needed, but trust me, I have long term goals in place for other third world locations, including the country of Belize which holds a very special place in my heart. There’s a growing undertone within me to build a clinic that also serves as a church down there one day. Perhaps that will be another chapter in my life at some point.

If anyone is interested in supporting my efforts down there and the team I will be working with, your donations would be greatly appreciated. What I am able to bring is fairly limited because of weight and size limits. However, your cash donations will go a long way. Many of the still healthy Haitians are being utilized as drivers, interpreters, and navigators. When possible, they are being paid for their services, which will be helpful in starting to reboost the nation’s economy. Donations can be transferred or deposited via credit card to my Paypal account at: tsjitter@hotmail.com, or checks/cash can be sent through the mail to:

Attn: Julie Pearce Haiti Relief Fund
Checks made payable to: Duluth Vineyard
1533 W. Arrowhead Rd., Duluth, MN 55811

I still have room for any large quantities of antibiotics, wound care, or surgical supplies. What I don’t have room for can be shipped to the team that is flying out of Ft. Lauderdale that I will be meeting up with in Cap Haitien. Lastly, if all you have are prayers, we’ll take that too. Keep all of the rescue workers, medical personnel, Haitian people, and various others supporting the relief efforts in your thoughts and prayers.

I am hoping I will have access to providing updates while I’m gone. If that be the case, then those updates will be posted on here on my blog. You can also follow things through facebook. Also, if you are interested in joining in some unity for all the people of Haiti, there will be a benefit concert sponsored by the College of St. Scholastica this Wednesday, February 3rd, 7pm at the Mitchell Auditorium. Check with the college website for some additional workshops being offered.

Thank you for the privilege to serve as your local news anchor for the last few years and thank you for giving me a place called home that I know I will be grateful to return to. For now, that same generosity and loving spirit I have so freely been given will be extended to the people of Haiti.

Blessings, Julie “Jitterbug” Pearce

"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4: 11b - 13, NIV.

My friend JP summed my departure up in a sweet James Taylor Song...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXxJHk3vWvo

There have been some really nice articles put out there regarding my decision, see below:

NBC & CBS, Northland's NewsCenter-Duluth:
http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/82998627.html

FOX9-Minneapolis:
http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/duluth-anchor-quits-job-to-help-in-haiti

West Central Tribune:
http://www.wctrib.com/event/apArticle/id/D9DH4N0G0/

CBS- WCCO- Minneapolis:
http://wcco.com/local/duluth.anchor.haiti.2.1456518.html

4 Comments:

At January 30, 2010 at 2:54 PM , Blogger Cory said...

I would like to go. I am an RN with decades of experience.I am also a fellow blogger. Cory-trulymadlydeeply. I mean it. Point me in the right direction and I'm there.

 
At January 31, 2010 at 5:23 AM , Anonymous ryanhewson said...

Julie,

If we can get you into Dominican Rep. I can help you get into Haiti through our friends with an orphanage in Jacmel...please email me:

info@moceancapecod.com

Facebook: MOCEAN or H (aiti) two O: Water for Jacmel.

we're in this together.

God Bless

Ryan Hewson

 
At January 31, 2010 at 5:35 AM , Blogger Cory said...

I'm gonna start working on it. Thanks! Cory

 
At February 2, 2010 at 4:01 AM , Blogger Cory said...

Bags are packed!

 

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