A new book, Rising from the Rubble: A health system’s extraordinary response to the Canterbury earthquakes, reveals untold stories of courage, compassion and creativity.
Based on interviews with those who lived and worked through the Canterbury earthquakes, Rising from the Rubble is co-authored by Dr Michael Ardagh and Dr Joanne Deely and published by Canterbury University Press. It gives a compelling account of staff working in the Canterbury health system who rallied to maintain and rebuild essential health services, ensuring continuity of care for the most vulnerable, as well as managing the significant increased demand for services to support the ongoing impact on the mental health and wellbeing of Cantabrians.
Dr Ardagh says he and Dr Deely felt there was a lack of information about the enormous role played by people in health during and after the earthquakes and that it was vital to record the experiences of patients and staff. “We wanted to capture their stories in a book that would be accessible to the general public as well as to health staff.”
Stories about the immediate disaster aftermath include accounts of emergency medical teams successfully managing a huge influx of patients, blood bank (transfusion services), staff maintaining uninterrupted services despite working intermittently by torchlight and also ankle-deep in water, and the maintenance and engineering staff striving to keep the hospital functioning despite the ravaged infrastructure.
“Most people would have run for the hills rather than stay underneath a concrete building. It was typical that staff chose not to flee, but to fight – to stay at, or even return to, work.”