Sign Up For Our Free Quarterly Publication
We respect your privacy. All information is kept confidential.

Hawaii - Kona


By Jean Cluff RN CHTP - October 2006

"We are not here to fix, change or belittle another... We are here to support, forgive and heal one another."
Marianne Williamson

In the wake of the quake, I walked into the large Kona Community Hospital conference room to observe many patients positioned in a semicircle across the room.  In an opposite corner, control center was “triaging” to send as many people home as possible and relocate others to Hilo Medical Center.  Up the hill another group, the long term care patients, were gathered in the back parking lot, awaiting someone who would help; and help would come in the hands of the Kona Sheraton convention center where these folks were moved on Sunday and remained until Friday.  Thus many nursing staff went to the convention center to work for the remainder of the week.

The orchestrating at this time appeared calm and very professional.  What I didn't observe, and have learned via stories of participants, is the evacuation itself; hand carrying patients down stairs from the second floor to a safe place, followed by throwing the mattress down the stairs, and later transferring these people via bed or gurney down a dangerous descending 'c' curve slope in the road to a lower level parking lot where they entered the conference room. 

I didn't observe the swift reactions of the one who called the need to evacuate, the night and day shift nurses exchanging report when the quake occurred, their personal choice temporarily denied to know what was going on in their own homes, their family safety, and their remaining with the evacuation process for an unknown duration, assuring the safety of all. 

I went in to my work area, the Operating Room (OR), to see if I could be of help. It was then that I began to sense the full-scale damage.  The hospital was built in the early 70's; Jean Bason from OB recalled the actual opening was 15 October 1975. The original building form is a basic three storey rectangle.  In the 80’s an addition was added to the makai (ocean) side of the south end, creating space for an extra OR, short stay and recovery area as well as a large storage area on the 2nd floor, and Intensive Care Unity (ICU), Physical Therapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT) and Respiratory Therapy (RT) space on the 1st floor, and on ground floor shipping and receiving, the ER and morgue.  This addition seemed more stable and to have minimal damage.

Most of the damage was noted in the original structure and most evident on the second floor.  The dropped down ceilings let loose and were revealing hanging electrical wires and fixtures as well as webs looking much like a great Halloween setting.  It's difficult to imagine carrying patients through this debris to the stairs.  Rumor has it the people were out of second floor in 15 minutes.  The extraordinary amount of stress and emotional churning that must go through one's body and mind during such a process is miraculous, in that a miracle is a shift in perception.  One operates in an adrenal overdrive.  We are taught what to do in such circumstances, yet to actually do this unfamiliar task in mass must be stress multifold. 

After the evacuation, Pat Kalua, DON, listened to her granddaughter process the experience and she reflected on the intensity of how each of the staff must be feeling as well.  On Tuesday, she called to inquire, through our Healing Touch program, would I gather therapists and bring them in to the hospital; a safe setting would be provided to work with staff.

I called and emailed invitations to everyone I knew, and was able to have a crew of 6 available the next day.  Over the next three days, HT, massage and Jin Shin Jitsu people offered their services.  We were very blessed with volunteers.  Despite it being Ironman weekend where most every massage therapist on our island focuses on training for that event, we found a few golden beings who shared with us. 

Reiko Sekine came into the hospital on Wednesday and worked her massage magic for 8 people.  On Thursday, she provided sessions for 9 staff at the convention center..  Velvet Replogle, one of our HT volunteers and massage therapist brought in her chair to do neck and shoulder work.  Vivian Ontai is a massage colleague from Auntie Margaret's school of Lomilomi.  She arrived Friday and spent the afternoon. Annie Marie Nyquist, a Jin Shin Jitsu pal, shared her expertise on Friday.  Carol Barfoot, Joy Wall, Leinaala Benson, Malia Scent, Marlene Celinski and I held the Healing Touch torch. 

Clients came in with their walkie talkies and had a feeling they could not turn them off.  I asked one client to at least turn down the volume, and during the course of our session, voices continued to talk tools, projects, and relocating people, etc.  It was a good session, and the client remained asleep for a few minutes following, when again the voice of the walkie talkie told someone to bring something to an elevator, her eyes popped open and she said, "Thank heavens that didn't go off during my session."

The most common point of perceived discomfort seemed to be 'neck and shoulders'.  A few complained of 'knee' pain, some admitted 'stress and feeling overwhelmed', and some said, 'everything's ok'.  Almost every recipient on the table fell asleep.  Sleep deprivation seemed prevalent. Some told their stories, a few cried.  "These people are devastated." Lei noted. The setting appeared to be one of controlled chaos.  Energetically balancing and holding space became my dance.  Sessions initially commenced in the Short Stay Area on the 2nd floor as it offered privacy and volunteers seemed comfortable.  Our second day we started there, I worked with 2 clients, when floor cleaners in blue shirts with big machines arrived to strip and wax the floors; the short stay staff swiftly moved equipment out of their way into our space.  In record time we transferred gurneys, sign up sheets and water to Physical Therapy on 1st floor.  A peaceful atmosphere was held the remainder of that day.  Day three began in PT, and mid way, here came the blue shirts with their machines once again.  As a session would end, the next client in line and the practitioner swept the gurney through the maize back to Short Stay. 

At the end of the first day, a woman from OB asked if she might work on my hands and shoulders, saying she has "no knowledge" of massage, yet would like to share with me.  I immediately sat down and she began her miraculous treatment.  Mid way, I looked up and said, "You have enormous knowledge, just no formal training."  People don't realize how gifted they are in ways of loving kindness.  On the third morning there was a quiet moment where Annie Marie shared her Jin Shin Jitsu with both Marlene and me, energizing and balancing us for the day ahead, reminding us of the importance of self care especially in such critical circumstances.  

We saw about 35 people on Wednesday, 25 on Thursday, and 20 on Friday.  In our attempts to obtain accurate counts of sessions, we asked people to sign in and also provided a book for comments upon leaving; the numbers didn't match so we tried to estimate how many were seen by each practitioner and compare. There were uncounted moments when a practitioner just sat someone down in a chair for a 5-7 minute 'stress relief' when people felt they just couldn't stop.  Long Term Care patients were moved back on Friday, and it was more difficult for staff to free themselves for 20-30 minutes.

This was an excellent opportunity for practitioners to see the many ways to 'act in the moment' using their limitless source of skills.  One of our new volunteers came on two different days.  I sensed she learned more about tapping into her internal resources and her previous doubts diminished.   Through a lovely mingling of modalities we were able to be of service in a moment in time where our humanness stretched to embrace our unknown potentials.