War nurse, Lyceum speaker sparks flames of volunteerism

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

April 9, 2013 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated April 9, 2013 at 11:10 p.m.

She was shot at, had her life threatened and weathered foreign diseases. But throughout it all, she was able to keep her most valued possession intact: her sense of humor.

War nurse and pilot Mary Lightfine spoke at the VISD Fine Arts Center as part of Victoria College's Lyceum Lecture Series on Tuesday night.

"I was addicted to volunteering even though I was shot at, felt disease and many other things," Lightfine said. "The thank-yous far outweighed the bad things that happened to me there."

From Somalia to Sri Lanka, Lightfine has been to more than 33 different countries.

With 16 years of experience as an emergency room nurse under her belt, Lightfine moved to Mogadishu, Somalia, and volunteered with an organization called Doctors Without Borders in 1992.

A young VC nursing school student sat earnestly listening to the seasoned war nurse share her stories.

Roni Bebout, 22, was preparing for her own adventures in volunteer work in Guatamala and was eager to get Lightfine's advice.

"It's amazing how she's just one person and has made such a huge difference in a lot of people's lives," Bebout said.

While working on a retrospective mortality study in South Sudan, Lightfine said she was working to figure out the cause of a growing amount of deaths in the area.

Lightfine said she noticed people regularly drank and bathed themselves in mud puddles and were contracting Guinea worm disease as a result.

"They can cause tetanus, and you can have up to 15 in your body," Lightfine said. "They are very painful, and you can get very sick from them."

She then showed the audience a PVC pipe with elephant grass tied at its ends.

"The cotton cloth at the end filters out the water flea," Lightfine said.

The device was introduced to the country by The Carter Center in 2000.

The Guinea worm is expected to be eradicated from South Sudan by 2020, said the nurse.

"I'm telling you this because you are our future's leaders and inventors," Lightfine said. "You can make a big difference in the lives of many."



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