segunda-feira, 7 de junho de 2010

Forensic nurses help solve brutal crimes

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- More than three a day -- that's how many sexual assaults were investigated in Houston and Harris County just last year. One key to solving them is Houston's forensic nurses team. It's the first in the state.

Behind this door is a 12-year-old who was sexually assaulted. "When I get to them, their soul is just totally shattered," said Ashley Huynh, a forensic nurse.
Huynh's job is to start the healing and to gather evidence. "This is some urine; I'm going to separate the specimen so I can get the ER sample, and I can have a sample for the crime lab," she said.
If not for Huynh, the scared 12-year-old could have languished for hours in a chaotic emergency room. "You have a lot of staff that ... are sometimes a bit unsympathetic," Huynh said. "And then sometimes patients leave or they feel like nobody cares or they're ashamed."
"There's pain everywhere that you see when you see these patients, and it's not necessarily all physical," said Skip Floyd, another forensic nurse. Floyd and Huynh are part of Memorial Hermann's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Team, a mobile team that covers its 10 hospitals.
"They show very compassionate care. Some of these victims are injured in the hospital; they're confused; they don't want to talk to anyone, and the nurses are the first ones who speak to these patients," said Houston Police Department Officer Jennifer Landrum. And they carefully collect evidence, taking as long as they need to do a most difficult exam. "I think they're great," said a victim as she held her head down and cried. This woman was a victim of sexual assault. But she agreed to talk to us because of Huynh's kindness.
"I think it is better because they can relate to you more; they see it on a day-to-day basis," the victim said. "That patient is your whole job, and all you have to do is make sure they have everything they need, and I love that about this field," Huynh said. Then, the evidence collected is kept in a refrigerator or locked in a cabinet until it's turned over to police."Not only does it help the investigators, but it also helps in court cases because they testify as expert witnesses in the cases, which is extremely crucial to solving these crimes," Landrum said.
The forensic nurses estimate they treat about 1,500 victims a year at the 10 Memorial Hermann hospitals alone. And some, come back to say thanks."They'll say, this is how old I was, this is what had happened to me and you took care of me, and it's like, 'Wow! What a difference,'" said Jamie Ferrell, clinical manager of Forensic Nursing Serv. Ferrell, who runs the forensic nursing program, has treated three-day-old babies and victims in their 80's. She doesn't forget their pain."You do carry it," Ferrell said.
"I have several patients I'll never forget, never forget," Floyd said. "You often wonder, what became of their lives?" But these forensic nurses keep coming back to help point shattered souls toward healing."I really do feel like I make a difference," Huynh said.The forensic nurses concept is so successful Ferrell has helped set up similar programs in other cities and 11 countries.