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Meet Nurse Roberta Gately, Humanitarian

Meet Nurse Roberta Gately, Humanitarian

Terri Polick | NursingLink

Gately admits that sometimes she is disheartened by how the media portrays Afghanis in the news. She’s afraid that most Americans don’t understand that not all Afghanis are terrorist. “Only a tiny percentage of the population engages in violence,” she said. “Afghan always gets a bad rap. They don’t deserve it.” Gately views the Afghans as noble people, and has had many unforgettable experiences while working overseas with them. The most memorable involved a little boy with a congenital hip deformity whom she met when working in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

“He had one leg that was shorter than the other,” she said. “The poor kid had to walk, often time barefoot, over miserable, rugged road using a stick as a cane.” Through the work of the IRC and other field workers, the child was transported to Kabul, where he received corrective hip surgery. He returned to visit Gately later, looking taller and stronger. But then the unthinkable happened: although he looked great, the child developed septicemia and died a few weeks after returning home.

“We tried everything to save the boy, but it was too late,” Gately said. “It was devastating to me. What should have been one of the brightest moments, just turned out to be proof that life in Afghanistan can be hellish even when you think that the ending will be pure joy.”

A few weeks later, the child’s mother came back to the clinic and gave Gately her son’s crutches and cane so another child could use them. In her moment of utter misery, the grieving mother demonstrated her strength of character and good will of the Afghani people, Gately said.

“I want people to understand the realization that Afghanis aren’t so different than we are,” she said. “We want good healthy lives, healthy children, safe homes, and food on the table. We all want peace.” To this end, Gately has written a novel that describes the common thread that runs through American and Afghani life. In her new book, Lipstick in Afghanistan, published by Simon & Schuster, Gately gives readers an inside glimpse into the lives of the Afghani people. Gately, the author of many scholarly articles about infant mortality and malnutrition in third world countries said that she didn’t want to write another scientific paper that was full of cold, hard facts.

She said that she wrote a novel because it allowed her to express in human terms what it is like to live under tyranny, “I wanted to show people a place of misery, a place where disease, malnutrition, and landmines exist, but where hope still reigns supreme.”

Gately looks at life differently since returning from overseas. In her blog, she writes about not getting upset by rush-hour traffic or waiting in long lines at the grocery store because those events pale in comparison to what millions of refugees go through everyday.

Gately, who works in Boston Medical Center’s PRN pool, said that she is just one of the 2.6 million American nurses who are trying to give good patient care during tough economic times. Despite cutbacks nationwide, Gately is confident that nurses are successful at their work and she remains hopeful for the future of the nursing profession. Gately is proud to be a nurse.

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