The challenge of launching a bone marrow transplant unit seemed even greater when Bangladesh decided to put it in a public institution: Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Sherburne had signed up to do this because she wanted to be out of her comfort zone and to be able to remember always how lucky she was to be at Massachusetts General.
She was reminded the moment she walked into Dhaka Medical.
The hospital has 1,700 beds but on any given day, there could be as many as 4,000 patients sharing beds and spilling into hallways and stairwells. That's not uncommon for public hospitals in this part of the world. They are the only places where desperately poor people can afford medical care.
Sherburne's skills might even make her a doctor at the Dhaka hospital. Some nurses are barely one step above a maid. That's what a doctor told Sherburne upon her arrival.
She'd never been in a hospital so ill-equipped to treat severe cases. In Boston, she changed her latex gloves after seeing each patient. In Dhaka, the hospital could not afford so many gloves, so the nurses used one pair on several patients.
She was appalled by the workload of the nurses; each averaged 25 to 30 patients. In America, that number would likely be somewhere between four and eight.
Sherburne and Meadows began their lectures and their clinical training of 10 nurses.
A horrific industrial accident
On the morning of April 24, the two American women were advised to stay at home. A hartal, the Bengali word for a strike, had been called for that day, and there was potential for more strife.
But the employees at the garment factories housed in Rana Plaza in suburban Savar were exempt from the strike. They were ordered to work, even after an inspection the previous day found cracks in the nine-story building and the structure was deemed dangerous.
Shortly after thousands of men, women, boys and girls showed up that day, the building came tumbling down. They were trapped under a crush of mangled concrete and steel.
Sherburne received a U.S. State Department alert about the building collapse.
"When Boston happened, it was so hard not to be at the scene," she said Thursday from Dhaka. "When this happened, I said, 'Take me to the hospital.' "
But she couldn't leave because of the security risks. Stuck in her home, she watched tragedy unfold again on television.
"My heart hasn't stopped breaking," she said.
She watched as rescue workers pulled out survivors, as time grew short. She knew that after 72 hours, there was little chance of a person surviving without food and water. The death toll would eventually rise to more than 400.
She watched as the plight of the workers became public again; how so many worked under terrible conditions for paltry salaries.
And she watched as a 17-year-old girl was interviewed on a TV station. Rescuers had to amputate her arm to slide her out of the rubble.
When Sherburne was 17, she dreaded Saturdays when she worked a four-hour shift at a dry cleaning shop and made $40. Now, it was difficult to watch the teenage survivor.
"The station called her lucky, and I went numb thinking how at age 17, I would have defined lucky," Sherburne wrote.
"It would have incorporated more than a minimum wage of $38 a month, it would have indicated that if a building was deemed unsafe on a Tuesday, I would not have been forced to return on a Wednesday, and without question it would have included two hands."
Later she questioned why tragedy in her hometown was incessantly on the news but the headlines from Bangladesh had already started to fade even before the rescue operation was over.
"I could tell you more about how much the Boston Marathon bombers' mother shoplifted from a Natick, Massachusetts, mall than how many factory workers were still missing."
Finally released to help