Thursday, November 10, 2011

Florence Nightingale (the lady with the lamp)

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Who was Florence Nightingale

In 1820 a baby girl was born to a rich English couple who were spending their holiday at a place called Florence, in Italy. The baby was named Florence after the name of the city in which she was born. In England at that time Florence was a new name for girls, but in later years it became popular because of the fame of Florence Nightingale.

In due course the Florence Nightingales returned to England. Florence Nightingale was taught by her father who did not like to send his daughters to school. Florence Nightingale and her sister Parthe had to work hard at a great number of subjects like philosophy and mathematics. She learnt many foreign languages too. Florence Nightingale worked hard, and in addition helped her mother in a number of ways. She had a habit of writing her private thoughts on pieces of paper. When she was seventeen she had a vision, just as Joan of Arc of France had hundreds of years before her. She writes:
‘On February 7, 1837, God spoke to me and called me to His service’

However, when Joan of Arc had a vision she received clear instructions as to what she was to do. Florence Nightingale only knew that she was to serve God. For the next nine years she was not sure how she would carry out her plans. Florence Nightingale grew up into a beautiful young girl. As a daughter of rich parents, she wore beautiful dresses and was often seen at the parties which were given by rich people in London. But she was not happy at these places. She always remembered that she was to serve God and waited for her chance to do so.

In 1842 the crops failed in England. The country suffered freo what was almost a feminine. People in the villages were starving. People in the tows had to work for almost nothing. London was full of people without work, and the hospitals were full too. Florence Nightingale was pained to see the misery of the poor and she began to realize that God’s service might mean working for the poor of the world. 

Florence Nightingale as a nurse:

Florence Nightingale always felt kindly towards the sick and wanted to nurse them. As she read about the miserable conditions inn the hospitals her ambition to become a nurse became stronger. Florence Nightingale wanted to improve these places where the sick people were left uncared for, the medicine was lacking, and the people working in these hospitals were not devoted.

Not far from the Florence Nightingale’s home was a hospital, and the chief doctor there was Dr. Fowler. One night her parents invited him to dinner, and after dinner they all sat talking in the drawing room.

‘My dear mama,’ said Florence Nightingale, ‘I have been thinking about my future. I have been thinking about what I want to do in life’.

‘And what have you decided, dear Florence?’ asked her mother.
Dr.Fowler and her father were listening carefully.
‘A nurse!’ cried her father. ‘How can you be a nurse? That means working in a hospital!’
‘Yes, father. It does. It means learning about nursinhg too. Could I go to Dr.Fowler’s hospital and spend some months there in learning how to be a nurse?’

Both her father and mother were extremely angry. Dr. Fowler, when he saw how angry they were, tried to calm them.

‘I agree with you,’he said, ‘that it would be quite impossible for a delicate and beautiful girl like Florence Nightingale to train as a nurse.’

In those days hospitals were overcrowded and dirty. No respectable woman would ever choose nursing as a career because nurses than had to work under the most unpleasant conditions. No wonder that Florence Nightingale’s parents would not let her go t a hospital, but expected her to live at home and be a fashionable young lady.

At that time Florence Nightingale was unable to do anything except obey her parents. But she did not give up her idea. She read as many books about nursing as her could and spent her time looking after sick people in the villages near her home. Florence Nightingale visited hospitals whenever she could. Once, when she went to Germany for a holiday, she was allowed to train at a good hospital for three months, where she learnt a great deal. At last her parents allowed her to become superintendent of a small nursing-home, where ahe proved herself to be an excellent organizer. 

Crimean War

In 1854 the Crimean War broke out between England, France and Turkey on the one side, and Russia on the other side. In the Crimean peninsula the Russians had a base at a place called Sebastopol, on the Black Sea. The French and British soldiers landed on the northern coast of Crimea and proceeded southwards in order to attack Sebastopol. They tried to reach Sebastopol by crossing the river Alma. Unfortunately there were not enough boats to take the equipment as well as the men. The soldiers crossed the river with great courage but they left behind their tents, cooking pots, medicines and hospital equipment. Almost immediately cholera broke out.

By the time the army surrounded the city, the Russians had strengthened their defences. The English and the French army laid a siege through the long Crimean winter. A fierce battle followed. The poet Tennyson has described it in his famous poem The Charge of the Light Brigade. He wrote:

 ‘Into the Valley of Death
Rode the six hundred’

Only 195 of these came back. The rest lay dead or wounded. The wounded men lay on the ground in the open. There were no beds, there were no medical supplies, there were only a few surgeons. All these cholera patients and also wounded soldiers were sent to a place called Scutari on the other side of the Black Sea. In Scutari a large building had been converted into a hospital by the English, but it was not big enough for all the sick and wounded soldiers who arrived in large numbers.

The people of England naturally knew nothing of this. A man called Russell was sent out to report on the war by a newspaper called The Times in London. He sent home his reports and they included a terrible description of the way in which the British soldiers were being neglected in the hospital. Soon everyone in England was talking about it. Russell wrote:

“Are there no devoted women among us able and willing to go forth to the hospital of Scutari? Are none of the daughters og England, at this extreme hour of need, ready for such a work of mercy?” 
He went on to say that the French hospitals were much better, that they had nurses who were nuns, called the Sisters of Charity, and they nursed the French with care and devotion.
Florence Nightingale knew immediately that this was her life’s mission. She wrote to a friend in the Government and to the surprise of her family she left immediately for Scutari with forty nurses. Florence Nightingale arrived there on 15 November 1854. It was winter and the weather was bitterly cold. Every day mare and more wounded soldiers poured into the hospital.

When Florence Nightingale arrived in Scutari with her team of nurses she did not receive a very happy welcome from the doctors. They were suspicious and uncooperative. Florence Nightingale, however, patiently brought about a number of changes in the hospital. The Times had raised some funds and Florence Nightingale used this money well. She repaired the hospital, bought blankets and soap, medical supplies of all kinds and improved the food. She organized the work of the doctors and the nurses, and the doctors soon realized that although she looked weak she was determined.

Not only did she carry out this great task of organization but she herself did a great deal of nursing. Florence Nightingale worked for long hours in the hospital wards, sometimes spending all day and night. Every night she walked round the whole hospital with a light in her hand. The wounded soldiers called her ‘The lady with the lamp’ a name by which she is remembered even today. Florence Nightingale traveled throughout Crimea working as hard as she could. She often fell ill, but as soon as she was well again she was off to visit another hospital. The war ended in September 1855. Florence Nightingale refused to go home until all the patients had left the hospital at Scutari.

Florence Nightingale’s achievement and died:

When she returned to England she was famous, but she did not want people to honour her. Instead, she started criticizing the hospitals in England. Florence Nightingale wanted them to change the dark, dreary buildings into places where people could get well quickly and happily. The Government asked her to serve on a committee. Florence Nightingale spent all her time in working to change in hospitals, especially the army hospitals.

In 1860 the people of England wanted to reward her for her services during the Crimea War. They collected  a large sum of money, ₤45,000 and presented it to her. With this money she set up a training school for nurses in London called the ‘Nightingale School for Nurses’. These nurses were given proper training and the Nightingale nurses soon became famous all over the country.

Since 1857 Florence Nightingale had been ill but carried on all her work from her bed. She wrote letters, reports, gave lectures and advice to different people on the setting up of hospitals and the training of the nurses. All this hard work affected her eyes and she became blind in 1901. Florence Nightingale was given the Order of Merit in in 1907 by King Edward VII- the first woman ever to receive this award. Florence Nightingale died in 1910 at the very advanced age for the contribution she made in developing the nursing system.   


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