A day in Liberia for nurse anesthetist John Erlandson

CSI volunteer John Erlandson, CRNA shares what his days have been like on the Liberia mission:

It’s 0530 and the alarm goes off – it feels much earlier than it is. My body fights with my brain: My body wants to stay in bed, but the brain knows we have good work ahead today.  

I stumble to the dining hall and hazily greet my new friends on this journey of care. Some I’ve known from other CSI trips; others I met a few days ago. Coffee, a big breakfast, more coffee.  Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey.

I jump into the van, smooshed in with the 20 other volunteers and gradually wake as the sun kisses the sky and the plantation around us comes to life. By the time we reach Firestone Duside Hospital, I can feel the caffeine kicking in. We wash our hands in chlorine water before entering the hospital, and I head upstairs to the storage room and change into scrubs and then head into the OR to get set up for the day.  

After a thumbs up from my circulator nurse, Samantha Chaplin, I go get the first child. In pre-op I am greeted by many sets of eyes – those of the nervous/happy parents and those of the scared/unsure kids. I triple-check to make sure I am getting the correct child (such wonderful names like Blessing, Godgift, Favor, Miracle, Success), scoop the child up and head back to the OR. I sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as we walk, and I get through two verses as we grab a brand-new, warm fleece blanket and settle onto the cold OR bed. Off to sleep you go, little tyke.


The surgeons (Drs. Janelle Fox, Nathan Kreykes, Trish Valusek and David Vandersteen) work their magic as I patiently monitor the little one and give medications that make them comfortable during and after the surgery. Once the procedure is done, I disconnect all of the monitors, scoop the child up in my arms and carry him/her to the recovery room – all swaddled up in the new, warm blanket, with my ear tilted down to listen for their breathing. Bursting into the recovery room, I exclaim, “Pannekoeken,” to let the nurses know we have a fresh arrival. After a quick check that they are still breathing well, I grab vital signs and depart.

Back in the OR, I quickly turn over breathing equipment and get medications ready for the next patient. I get a quick thumbs up from Samantha again and head back to pre-op for the next patient. 


The day becomes a little bit of a blur, but soon we are loading back into the van to trek back “home” to the Firestone guesthouse where a large dinner is waiting (along with a cold beer).

The warm evening passes quickly, chatting and playing games with my newfound friends. Then it’s off to bed. I keep thinking I’ll get to bed earlier each night, but it’s hard to pass up time with these friends. My brain is asleep before my head hits the pillow, and the next thing I know, it’s 0530 and the alarm goes off…


View more photos on CSI’s Flickr site.