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In This Issue:
Machar Nai, patient care assistant on Tower 12ABC, will ring in the New Year on a plane to his native Sudan, where he lived until civil war and horrific genocide ravaged the country. He is one of Sudan’s Lost Boys, the term aid organizations use for the group of courageous refugees who survived.
This is Nai’s second trip back since he was forced to leave Sudan in 1987 at the age of 7 or 8. On his first trip, Nai sought to find his family. This time, he wants to help the people of his former village build a school or hospital—whichever need is greatest.
To support him, the nurses and other staff on Tower 12 have taken up a collection to help Nai help his village.
“Nai is a survivor of so much in life,” said Mary Lou Moore, MSN, RN, CCRN, director of Cardiovascular Nursing and Clinical Services, who hired Nai in 2002. Moore helped Nai study for his U.S. citizenship test and file his paperwork, and last month, he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
“I live with no fear now,” said Nai, who shares a Somerville apartment with other Lost Boys. “I have food and security. But for 12 or 13 years, you can’t imagine how life could be.”
Battle for Survival
In 1987, an attack on his village of Kolnyang separated Nai from his family. He hid with other children until it was over. Everything was destroyed. “I prayed for my family,” he said, but he did not find them. He walked with other surviving children and few adults 300 miles to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
“There were terrible hardships on our journey,” he recalled. “There were wild animals like lions and hyenas, and we didn’t have enough food.”
Not everyone survived, but in December of 1987, Nai and others arrived at the camp. They stayed two years, fighting off disease and enduring hunger. A civil war in Ethiopia forced them to flee to Pochalla, a town on the border of Ethiopia and Sudan. When Pochalla was bombed by the Sudanese government, Nai and the refugees walked for four months to Kenya, where they lived for nine years until 2000. Then, the U.S. government brought 3,600 Lost Boys to the U.S, and Catholic Charities placed Nai and others in the Boston area.
Return to Sudan
After working briefly in a nursing home and a rehabilitation center, Nai took a patient care assistant prep course and was hired on 12ABC. He found support from Moore, former nurse manager of 12ABCD, and his colleagues on the floor. It was Moore who encouraged him to make his first trip back when he approached her. “He hadn’t seen his parents in 17 years and didn’t know if they were even alive,” she said. “I told him, ‘We’re going to get you there.’”
And they did. Nai returned to his homeland in 2004 and found his parents and sister. “I was dying to get back home and find out if my family was alive,” he said. “No matter what, I had to go and find them.”
It was a tearful and joyful reunion. Nai’s parents didn’t know if he had survived, and they were shocked and overjoyed to see him.
Nai’s joy was accompanied by the shock of seeing such immense suffering among the Sudanese. “The survivors are facing all these challenges,” he said. “They are trying to forget the war and move on with a normal life, but they need a lot of things.”
There is no access to clean water, adequate health care or education. The only health care available is a one-room clinic with four beds, no doctors and no medicine. Patients share beds and sleep outside under mosquito nets. There is no education about the spread of disease, and people don’t know how to prevent infections.
“I have to go back to do something,” said Nai, who will discuss with people in the village what they need most and raise funds to help them get it. “There is a group of volunteers there trying to build the community. I should be part of this.”
Tower 12 staff are collecting money to support Nai. Unit coordinators Samantha Joseph and Sasha Link are coordinating the effort. “This floor is really supportive of me,” Nai said. “Here, people care for one another. They are wonderful.”
Nai leaves on Dec. 31. He will pack a camcorder so that when he returns from his trip, he can show people here the suffering of the Sudanese.
“I need help,” he said. “I need people to help me. They need to see how it is there. People in Sudan are counting on people here.”