Comer Nurse Responded to Church's Call to Help Haiti

comer nurse in haiti
Tiffany Cupp, RN, and 8-year-old earthquake survivor, Yveline

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Cupp

By Allison Horton

The need to help Haiti spurred nearly 40 Medical Center staff members into action, but Tiffany Cupp, RN, a pediatric trauma emergency room nurse at Comer Children’s Hospital was the first Medical Center employee to arrive in Haiti.

Nine days after the earthquake, Cupp and a 21-member surgical team sponsored by CURE International arrived January 20 in Port-au-Prince for a week-long trip. The nonprofit Christian organization provides medical treatment to disabled children in developing countries. Her church, Park Community Church, located near downtown Chicago, was looking for nurses to go with the organization.

“I live my life for God,” she said. “I try to be obedient, and I felt the Lord was pulling me there to use my skills and share my faith.”

Cupp was the only pediatric trauma nurse at Haiti Community Hospital and the clinic where she treated wounds, provided medication and administered IVs to children and adults. “The first day we got there, we put our bags down and hit the deck running,” she said. “There were so many patients, 400 or 500 patients in the first day. I was up for 42 hours straight.”

The hospital had water and limited electricity, but Cupp slept on the roof because the facility was overflowing with patients. Some were lying side-by-side in the hallways, while eight to 10 patients packed in a room. Others waited for care in makeshift tents.

During her second day in Haiti, Yveline, an 8-year-old girl who lost both parents in the earthquake, came into the triage with crush injuries to her face and right arm, Cupp said. “She and I developed a very unique relationship,” she said. “The other nurses told me she would cry when I wasn’t there. She came out of surgery and literally would not eat, drink or stop crying until I came to see her. She wanted me by her side."

“It was odd because I don’t know her, but it was a very unusual bond that formed over such a short amount of time,” Cupp said. According to Yveline’s grandmother, Cupp not only looks like Yveline’s mother, but also is the same age as her when she died in the earthquake.

Since her return, Cupp continues to keep in touch with Yveline’s family and has learned that Yveline is recovering from her injuries. She also keeps in touch with the aid workers and interpreters she met in Haiti as well. “We are like a family now,” she said.

Cupp, who will complete a 3 1/2 year family nurse practitioner program at Rush University in June 2011, hopes to return to Haiti on March 14 with another team from CURE International. She said the first experience has helped her to figure out her long-term career goals — to open a free clinic in Haiti. “It’s opened my eyes to why I went into this profession, which is to serve people in need and to provide the best care that I can,” she said. “That is what Haiti needs. When I am done with school, I plan to dedicate a certain amount of time there.”

On March 6, Cupp will host a public benefit at Rockit Bar and Grill in Wrigleyville to raise money for her return and for items needed at Haiti orphanages, such as shoes and vitamins.