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Remembering the Lady of the Lamp
As with natural disasters such as earthquakes, war exacts a heavy psychological toll on those of its victims fortunate enough to avoid death or injury. Ironically, one of the first recorded sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder was a person who defined the very nature and development of modern nursing techniques.
Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 to a well-off English family living on inherited wealth. Educated mainly by her father, she enjoyed a privileged and comfortable childhood. A profound religious experience at the age of sixteen eventually led to her doing charity work in hospitals rather than accepting either of two marriage proposals, much to the horror of her deeply conservative family.
True horror was to confront Florence as soon as she arrived at a military hospital in Turkey in 1854. She had already acquired a reputation for her nursing expertise and had been asked to help treat British soldiers wounded in the Crimean War. She was devoted to duty even amid appalling conditions and earned herself the nickname "Lady of the Lamp" for her habit of doing the rounds late at night.
Badly traumatized by her experiences, the now-famous Florence Nightingale never again made a public appearance after returning to England. Despite suffering ill health until she died in 1910, she worked tirelessly behind the scenes to establish training schools and get nursing accepted as a recognized profession. Nowadays, her worldwide legacy bears witness to her efforts.