The Fijian Way

The Nurse On The Other Side (Fiji medical stories)


Suli, is a 15 year old deaf boy at the Gospel School for the Deaf. During the school’s track competitions he collapsed from heat stroke after running a 400m race. It was a hot day and 400m is a tough race, so when Suli and the other runners in his heat fell to the ground after crossing the finish line we didn’t think much of it. I was busy preparing my stop watch for the next heat of runners when after about 5 minutes I  noticed that Suli was still lying on the ground with his face down and his eyes closed. At that point I grabbed Stephen and we went over to congratulate Suli on finishing the race. Because he’s deaf and won’t respond to our voice we tapped his arm a few times to wake him but he didn’t open his eyes, just moaned a bit. Stephen continued to shake his arm but he wouldn’t wake up. I assumed he was just embarrassed because he finished last place, so I told Stephen to leave him alone for a bit, “maybe he’s shy” I said. Stephen ignored me, he turned Suli over onto his back and proceeded to pour water on Suli’s face. Suli didn’t open his eyes, didn’t move, and didn’t show any signs of arousal. “OK”, I thought, maybe Suli’s not just being shy, perhaps there’s something more going on here. I started shaking Suli harder, he didn’t wake up. I pinched his arm, he didn’t wake, slapped his face around, tickled his feet, gave him the deep sternal rub, still no arousal.  His pulse and respirations were within normal limits.  I lifted up his arm and there was no strength or resistance, his arm just fell back to the ground, limp. I asked for someone to grab a chair from one of the classrooms so we could raise his legs. “Alright Suli, lets wake up!” I proceeded to pinch his skin really hard, I was leaving welts but at this point I didn’t care because he still wasn’t waking up! This was now going on for 10+ minutes, Suli was still unconscious so I asked for someone to please call the rescue. Whether this was a result of low blood sugar, dehydration, or some thing else we didn’t know; having no medical history on these children left many possibilities. In Fiji fashion the rescue took longer than it would in America, no flashing lights or sirens. Stephen and I jumped in the ambulance with the EMT’s and rushed Suli to the public community hospital. Now with more resources we were able to see that Suli’s body temperature was within normal limits, but I was concerned because his blood pressure was lllloooooowwww 75/50, I kept re-checking hoping that it was wrong. When we arrived at the hospital the EMT’s left Suli’s stretcher in the hallway and went around the desk, to then hand me a clip board of paper work. “Paperwork, you have to be kidding me, I don’t even know Suli’s full name, never mind his last name or DOB.  We need to get him IV fluids and check his blood sugar NOW, we can do the paper work later”, I said. When I grabbed the stretcher the two EMT’s looked at each other and led me into the observation room.  Things were still snail slow in the observation room; I asked where the nurse or doctor was and at that point one of the EMT’s ran off to fetch them. Meanwhile, the other EMT whips out his note paper and pen, “I’m planning to be over in America next month, can you write down where you live?”. I looked at Stephen and laughed (is this man really asking me for my address as Suli lay unconscious on the stretcher)? 

In nursing school I learned the “Good Samartain” rule – therefore it made my requesting of STAT IV fluids, blood work, EKG, and vital sign monitoring less like I was overstepping my boundaries and more that I was acting in the good nature as Suli’s advocate. After the two hour mark passed and Suli was still unconscious with the doctor not giving me much reassurance, I began getting worried. At this point all kinds of things are going through my head; without knowing Suli’s past medical history, who knew if this was a result of a congenital heart defect or something serious?  Two and a half hours and 2Liters of IV fluids later Suli finally came back to us and of course I shed my tears. Even though I had only been at the school for less then two months and didn’t know Suli as well as I had come to know some of the kids, I was so concerned for him and when he woke up, I was overjoyed!  Even though I’ve progressed a little in learning more sign language there still exists a large barrier in my communication with Suli, I am not able to fully share the story with him of what happened that day. Even if I were to share this writing with him he would probably struggle to read and understand some of the words. Although I may never be able to fully share with Suli what happened that day, with being a new nurse I have gained so much from this experience. This was a good lesson for me. Being a young nurse and having to be on the “other side of things”, in a hopsital that I had little control over was hard. I love Suli like I love all the children at the GSFTD but one day someone that is closer to me and someone that I love even more, may lay on that stretcher and from this experience I can say I’ve learned what it is like to be “on the other side”. 

As I continue my career as a nurse I will value this experience, I will value how critical it is for me to remember what it’s like for the people on the “other side”.


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  1. * Julia says:

    This most have been very scarey fr you both, Lindsay and Stephan! Thinking of only the simple possibilities of why that young child had collasped, then coming to the realization that you don’t have any PMH or even know the childs last name. I boggles me that he just laying in the hall way with no one reacting to his suddon collaspe, perhaps he was only dehydrated, but you or Suli will kever know. Being in another country deffinatly put you on the ‘other side’, and im sure you were extremly fustrated. The language barrier not only between the hospital staff but between you and Suli must have been difficult. I’m sure when Suli did wake up he was happy to see both your faces and to know you both care for him. hope he is feel better and now him and all the other boys and girls are now drinking PLENTY of water during practice!!! I know you are getting ready to pack things up, and I’m sure those children are going to miss you very much, but I miss you both too, so have a great rest of your time there, soak in as much as you can, enjoy it!!! Miss and love you both, be safe!!

    <3 Julia

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 8 months ago

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