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Theta Tau Induction Speech

22 March 2018

My name is Zeina Kassem and I’m honoured to be speaking among you today.

Regrettably, nursing doesn’t attract the same attention or spotlight as other professions, but that doesn’t mean any less work or sacrifice. When the lights go off, visiting hours are over, the elevator doors slide shut and families return home, the nurses are still there. It’s a relentless sense of dedication and commitment to helping others, and to their profession, that makes them true unsung heroes. 

Much has been said about the transformative power of pain, but few words are more relevant than Rumi’s words: The wound is the place where the light enters you. For in moments of great loss and tragedy, each of us faces a choice; surrender to the darkness or turn towards the light which heals. In 2010, when my seventeen-year-old son Talal was hit and killed by a car while crossing the road on his way to school, I found myself facing that very choice. And despite the pain, I refused to surrender. I couldn’t let his loss be in vain. I wanted to make sure his death would serve a higher purpose. I decided to make a difference and founded Roads for Life – the Talal Kassem Fund for Post-Accident Care in his memory. 

Roads for Life aims to save as many lives as possible across Lebanon and to increase victims’ chances of survival within the first 60 minutes following an accident, a window known as “the golden period of trauma.”Trauma is the number one cause of death between the ages of 12-44, the most productive years of life. Roads for Life’s efforts initially focused specifically on addressing the aftermath of road crashes, but it soon became clear that there was a real need to address the bigger picture, to look at trauma as a cycle and train trauma professionals, from first responders to paramedics, nurses and doctors, throughout its stages. 

Working with the Lebanese Red Cross—and a number of respected institutions including the American College of Surgeons in Chicago, the Society of Trauma Nurses and the American University of Beirut Medical Centre—Roads for Life funds and runs training courses for police officers, the fire brigade, paramedics, nurses, doctors, both civilian and military. At the beginning, it was difficult to convince people about the importance of this training. Everyone assumed doctors and nurses are specialists who already know their jobs inside out—but trauma situations are different. We succeeded in showing how important it is to teach trauma techniques and focus on coordination between healthcare professionals, so that everybody in their field knows what to do and how to work together in a trauma situation. The Ministry of Health even made these courses a requirement for the accreditation of emergency staff.

In our experience with education programs over the past 7 years, we found out that our nurses have been, without doubt, the most eager learners and active participants both during the course and after. The role of the nurse is central in the chain of trauma care that we are trying to help build. This is evident in the courses themselves in which doctors and nurses work
together in simulated trauma cases. I have feedback from instructors of how much the inclusion of nurses has enriched the learning environment and team- building outcomes of each course and their practice. However, nurses are not simply participants in our initiatives, they are the foundation that it is built upon.  

I have to say that all of these achievements were sparked from one key moment in the first year after Talal left us. In a visit to the emergency department, I met a nurse who told me about his aspiration to become a trauma care specialist. This got me curious and with a little bit of investigation I discovered the Advanced Trauma Life Support course that was still at its infancy at AUBMC. It was a nurse who was leading this initiative, pulling together the manpower, resources and logistics to make it a reality. In our everyday work, in our strategy as an organization, we rely on the counsel and advice of nurses to give us the critical information we need to make effective decisions.

Through the efforts and recommendations of nurses we were able to expand the scope of our programs to include trauma certification beyond the doctors. In the background of each course that we have, either as coordinator, instructor or as director, we have a registered nurse present who runs the show. In public communications and in mediations with international accreditation bodies we rely on nurses to give us credibility and legitimacy. Nurses have been our partners throughout this entire journey and I am dependant on them as we continue to push ahead. Your profession is defined by humanity and empathy and you have been my rudder and guide in this stormy journey. 

To date,Roads for Life has trained more than 510 doctors, 560 paramedics and 280 nurses all over Lebanon, and has launched training courses for security forces and polices officers, who are often the first responders on the scene of an accident. But the scope of Roads for Life's work extends beyond Lebanon: Roads for Life has has sent teams that have helped establish trauma courses for nurses in Cyprus and Kenya, and has also been invited to Sudan and Dubai. We have worked determinedly to ensure that the usual high-cost of such programs, along with differences in language, did not serve as roadblocks that would prevent lives from being saved. Thus, we made sure that the courses taught, no matter the location, would be affordable and conducted according to the latest guidelines.  Roads for Life has committed itself to bringing about change, both in Lebanon and in the region. 

Today I take the opportunity to stress the bittersweet lesson I have learned from this. It is important to let your loved ones know how you feel, and make each moment count. Always tell those you love that you love them and make the best of the time that life gives you. Surround yourself with love and respect and make these the backbone of everything you
do. Value love, respect and faith.

In my journey as Founder I was often asked if I was a doctor being so focused on my mission of promoting and advocating training for professionals in saving lives being paramedics or nurses or doctors. 

I always answer: I am not; I am only a mother that lost a Child. 

Looking back at the tragedy that hit my family that October 2010, I often wonder what would have happened to my son Talal had he survived to all his physical injuries Let’s face it! I don’t have the Skills Of a doctor obviously nor do I have the courage to face a tragedy scene as a courageous paramedic does at a risk of losing his Life as we have lost the
late Hanna Lahoud while on duty may his soul rest In peace !

I would have looked up to you to your dedication providing proper medical intervention at the right Time!
I would have looked up for your Care and your kind heart for Talal and for all people in suffering because nurses such as yourselves here today are the most trusted healthcare professionals

You are with patients throughout the continuum of Life. You are teachers, advocates, caregivers, critical thinkers
I am here today to tell you one thing I truly believe: You must know in your hearts that Nursing is such an honorable profession and that you all are at the heart and soul of the healthcare system

I want to thank you as nurses, and future nurses for embodying these values in your profession, and wish you the best in going forward. I will say thank you now in advance, for all the compassionate things you do, the knowledge that you share and the support you give all of us. I, for one, do not take your sacrifices for granted.

And if one Time again I am asked if I was a doctor I wish I could answer that I was a Nurse And how proud I would be!