Afghanistan: Lifesaving trauma care in Lashkar Gah

4 Jul 2016
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There was one day in the hospital I will never forget. It started as a normal day. Well, normal for Lashkar Gah.

We had been very busy and I was exhausted – it was just days before I was due to go on holiday. It was about six in the evening and the emergency room was chaotic as usual – it’s the busiest department in the hospital, with 300-400 patients coming through our doors on an average day.

Suddenly, a very small child was rushed in through the doors with a serious head trauma.

He had been involved in an accident with a tractor and his head had been crushed by the wheel of the vehicle.

I’m an experienced operating theatre nurse, but you never get used to seeing a child in that condition.

Even if you have ten serious emergencies every day, you never get used to it. One look at him and I was sure he would die.

The team sprang into action. From the moment the child came through the doors, the staff fought to keep him alive. We checked his vital signs, provided fluids and inserted an IV line.

We managed to stabilise him and he was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit for monitoring. Then we waited.

An Al Jazeera documentary on MSF's work in Boost hospital, Lashkar Gah.

Bombs and bullets

I’ve been here in southern Afghanistan for seven months where I’m working as an operating theatre supervisor with a team of dedicated Afghan staff in Boost hospital.

We provide surgery, internal medicine, emergency services, maternal health services, paediatrics and intensive care.

The hospital is one of the few medical facilities for the million or more people living in this area. During the winter months and times of heightened conflict, people struggle to get to the hospital.

They can’t move around easily – it’s just too dangerous – but they have nowhere else to go if they are sick or injured. At the moment, the situation in Lashkar Gah is tense.

There was a period of intense fighting just two weeks ago and our hospital was filled with injured and war-wounded – there were people with gunshot wounds and numerous other traumas.

We often hear the gunshots ringing out around the hospital, and there have been nights when the bombing has gone on until the early morning.

It happens so often now that it’s become a part of our normal lives. You get used to it. In the house we have a safe room and also a bunker where the whole team can stay if the security situation gets really bad.

A life saved

After the child had been taken to intensive care, the Afghan staff looked after him all through the night, monitoring his vital signs.

He was in safe hands, but I still couldn’t get to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. The fear you have as a nurse for your patients doesn’t just go away at the end of a working day, no matter how hard you try to switch off.

And of course the sound of bombs didn’t help. In the morning I went straight to the intensive care unit to check on the child.

To my amazement, he was alive and had started to respond to our treatment. This child had more power than any of us had imagined.

That was a few days ago now and the child has a long road to recovery ahead. But at least we have given him the chance of a future.

I was so proud of the team at that moment. Everybody had worked together and fought to save this child’s life. Every day our teams treat hundreds of patients, many of whom have travelled for miles to reach our hospital.

As the conflict continues, more and more people depend on us to be there, providing free emergency care. With your support we can save lives and ensure there are more stories of recovery like this one. Thank you for your support.

Jessica Comi

MSF operating theatre nurse

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