Former California State University, Fresno nursing graduate and ROTC standout, 2nd Lt. Anastasia Fiehler returned from helping Haitians get back on their feet and rejuvenating their spirits.
Philip Phaphilom, Cadet Col. for the Fresno State ROTC, said Fiehler is very giving, compassionate and ready to help others.
“To have someone who has graduated here, who I have hung out with on a number of occasions go and do that is really amazing,” Phaphilom said.
Fiehler said she wanted to get outside of the daily routine and experience something new while being able to help the survivors of the earthquake.
“I was really excited,” Fiehler said. “I wanted to go really bad.”
Fiehler said she felt ready for the unknown in Haiti but she had to wait six days before leaving Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster, Calif., where she was stationed.
The airport in Haiti was where all of the supplies, people and support vehicles converged before leaving for designated assignments.
“From the moment we landed there were constant planes landing and taking off and cars driving all over the place,” Fiehler said. “It smelled like smoke and gas and it was very humid.”
Fiehler said she worked alongside aid workers from across the world.
“I saw UN soldiers, French soldiers, Columbians, Canadian helicopters and Japanese workers,” Fiehler said.
Once on the ground, Fiehler went with her group to a spot 10 to 15 minutes away from the airport that she called home for 33 days.
“When we first arrived, we had two, four-person tents on a grass field out in the open and port-a-potties were our only luxury,” Fiehler said. “After about a week though, we received our own living facilities with all of the modern amenities.”
Fiehler was grouped with the 24th Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS), a group made up of a variety of Air Force personnel. One of the first things that the group was assigned to do was assemble the hospital from which they would be working. After a week of work, Fiehler and the others had set up a fully functional hospital on a landfill near the coast.
“Once we started accepting patients, we would get a couple of patients at a time, but soon enough we started getting an in-flow of people,” Fiehler said. “We would get 10-20 people rolling through everyday.”
Fiehler treated a number of people that were crushed by their own house. She said many of the Haitian people are still very scared of being inside buildings.
“Look at the pictures on the news,” Fiehler said. “The buildings are crumbled almost as if it where a gingerbread house.”
For Fiehler, the children of Haiti are what stick out the most in her mind.
“We had this little boy that was very skinny and had been crushed by something. He had broken his arm and femur,” Fiehler said. “We had to give him a wheelchair but all we had was a wheelchair for an adult.
Fiehler and another nurse rallied for a couple of days until they were able to send for a child’s wheelchair, which would take four or five days to arrive.
“This is something that would take a couple days in the states, but here it’s just not accessible. The thing that touched me the most is how happy he was once we gave him his new wheelchair.”
Fiehler said she met many people who had lost their entire family and now their closest family member was their neighbor. Fiehler said that not only do people need help, but also they just need someone there for them.
Fiehler returned to the states on March 8. She said overall her time in Haiti was a great experience and she was just glad that she could help.