Soon after her arrival, over 1000 soldiers were under her medical care. She not only took charge of the 38 nurses with her, but also made major changes in the kitchen so the meals would be healthy and at least somewhat tasty.
Florence Nightingale- Nurse- 3
A Character story about compassion.
Florence sat stunned as she read the newspaper account of medical needs among the British troops fighting in the Crimea. "The ship was literally covered with prostrate forms. The worst cases were placed on the upper deck which in a day or two became a mass of putridity. The neglected gunshot wounds bred maggots which crawled in every direction, infecting the food. The putrid animal matter caused such a stench that the officers and crew were nearly overcome, and the captain is now ill from the effects of misery. All 1500 blankets have been thrown overboard as useless."
The immediate and pressing need for doctors and nurses finally compelled her to write to Sidney Herbert, Minister of War in England. "I suggest you send an expedition of nurses under my leadership," she said. Little did she realize that a letter from Sir Herbert crossed hers in the mail. His letter pointed out the difficult task of choosing additional nurses "equal to a task, and requiring, besides knowledge and good will, great energy and great courage." He, of course, wanted Florence to be in charge of them. When Florence suggested this plan to her family, all of them immediately gave her their full support. They realized that God had plans for Florence beyond their own ideas. In just five days she had made all the necessary preparations to leave. And the number of applicants to go with her flooded in. Because of the difficulty of the situation, Florence determined to take but twenty but Sir Herbert overruled that and eventually 38 left with her. Just before leaving for Turkey, Florence received a touching note from Sir Henry Manning. "God will keep you, and my prayer for you will be that your one Object of worship, Pattern of imitation and Source of consolation and strength may be the sacred heart of our Divine Lord." It was this strength alone that could carry her through the difficulties of the next months. She knew that God had called her to this special ministry.
It took no time after arriving to see that conditions were every bit as bad as stated. "Mattresses were hastily stuffed with whatever was available, and thrown on the floors where the wounded were placed. Basins, towels, soap, brooms, knives, forks, and clean linen were packing. Ventilation was terrible. She found the men lying in their uniforms, stiff with blood, covered with filth, their hair blood-matted. Maggots crawled over them. Looking outside a sickroom window, Florence saw a pile of amputated arms and legs which had been hurled from the operating room." Such conditions, and worse, Florence would face every day. The beds were needed for the soldiers so the nurses' quarters was simple and crowded. For a while Florence slept behind a screen in the kitchen!
Soon after her arrival, over 1000 soldiers were under her medical care. She not only took charge of the 38 nurses with her, but also made major changes in the kitchen so the meals would be healthy and at least somewhat tasty. Then she improved the management of the laundry so that clean shirts were available. The cold water would not kill disease so, with her own money, she rented a house, installed boilers, and hired soldier's wives to operate them. Within a week the laundry was generally looking and smelling clean.
Besides all this, Florence personally cared for the severe cases. On one occasion, she found a soldier whose arm was to be amputated. "Could we delay this operation?" she asked the doctor. "I feel we could save this limb with proper nursing." And so she did. Florence provided stationery and postage for the men in the wards and urged them to write home. Often she would write letters for them as they dictated to her. She was idolized by the men. Some asked only that she hold their hand as they died. Others vowed that she had to be an angel in disguise.
You can imagine how frustrated Florence felt with what we now call "red tape." These are regulations that are usually designed to provide order, but often slow down distribution of the needed help. On once occasion when shirts were badly needed, Florence found 27,000 of them in a storeroom but could not unpack them until a committee gave permission for their use. Then Sir Herbert, understanding her work load, felt sorry for her and sent an additional 46 nurses. This both hurt and angered Florence, who had all she could do to oversee those already at the hospital. She told him she felt he had overstepped, but continued her tireless work, carrying her lamp around the barracks throughout the night, and winning for herself the title of "Lady with the Lamp."
But the demands of the task, the sleepless nights, and the constant presence of disease took their toll. When word reached England that Florence was seriously ill, letters poured in from thousands. Yet, in spite of her weakened condition, she continued her work, even after the war ended March 30, 1856.