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Two Afghan boys tonight.. one hurt by an IED, the other hurt planting one. Both died. Camp Bastion, Friday, July 2; NURSE SAVING LIVES ON FRONT LINE REVEALS TRUE HORRORS OF WAR IN SEARING DIARY.

SATURDAY, JUNE 19 Camp Bastion is the main British military base in Afghanistan, north-west of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.

This is my second time here. I joined the TA in 2005 and had my first tour in 2007.

Got up at 5.30 and went for a 10km run.

I was on a day shift - 7.30 to 20.00 - and it was a busy shift with several paediatric patients in I CU (Intensive Care Unit).

My patient was a little boy, about five years old, with a blast injury to his chest and abdomen.

At the end of the shift I went back to my tent to catch up with some admin, ironing, write letters and sleep.

SUNDAY, JUNE 20 It's Father's Day. I think it will be a difficult day - my dad died suddenly a couple of weeks ago. I was flown back home the day I found out.

I was home for a week for the funeral and then came back to Afghanistan.

The hospital at Bastion has an emergency department, theatres, two wards, ICU with 10 beds, labs, pharmacy, radiology, primary health department (for ailments you'd see a GP for), physio and rehab, mental health, welfare department and a chaplain.

Went to the welfare tent. It has a fridge, TV, comfortable chairs and magazines. If you've had a bad shift, you can talk to your colleagues. You see all these awful injuries and you need to try to make some sense of it.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23 My night shift begins at 19.30. We were put on stand-by to accept two soldiers but very sadly they didn't make it.

Just after midnight there was a vigil ceremony outside the hospital for five British soldiers who died a few days ago.

It's a way to pay respects to these guys as they begin their journey home.

At the end of our night shift we were put on stand-by - two more critically injured ISAF soldiers were being flown into Camp Bastion.

FRIDAY, JUNE 25 The post came today. There were letters from friends and a heart monitor - a toy for my running - I ordered from Amazon. Yes, they deliver to the camp. Mail is a huge boost - getting a letter from home can really lift your spirits.

Email is good but every time a soldier is injured all the internet connections are stopped until the family are informed.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30 Finished shift at 8am, dropped off my laundry, went to the gym for 45 minutes then slept for a few hours.

At 2pm I went to a lecture by one of the hospital interpreters about Afghanistan, healthcare provision and cultural issues.

Hearing about life in Afghanistan makes me very appreciative of the life I have in Scotland, particularly the NHS. On the other hand, there is a strong community and family ethos in Afghanistan, which is sometimes lacking in the UK.

THURSDAY, JULY 1 Up at 5am and went for a run then had a busy day shift. The patient I was looking after was a 10-year-old girl who was a triple amputee. She was travelling in a car with her mum when the car went over an IED (improvised explosive device).

The little girl woke up after surgery to remove three of her limbs. She was very brave and it's good that she was doing so well but I wonder about her future.

FRIDAY, JULY 2 Night shift. I care for a 14-year-old local boy. He was in a group of children who were running away from one explosion and triggered another. There were multiple fatalities and several others were injured.

The boy has been with us for eight days.

He has multiple abdominal and chest injuries and required major surgery.

During my shift he started to develop multi-organ failure and, as my shift progressed, it became increasingly likely that he would not survive.

Also in the department that night was a 15-year-old boy. He had been planting an IED which exploded. He came to us for terminal care.

After I finished, I went for a 5km run. I ran as fast as I could. Personal fitness is a means of control in an environment where so much else is awful and out of my hands.

SUNDAY, JULY 4 Day shift. I was with the 14-year-old boy again and he remained very poorly.

There was an incident involving two UK and two Afghan National Army soldiers. One of the UK soldiers was killed in action, the other lad had severe chest, abdominal and leg wounds.

He was in surgery for about eight hours and needed a massive blood transfusion. He was very sick on arrival to us and it took several hours to stabilise him.

MONDAY, JULY 5 Night shift and I was back looking after the teenage boy. Just after my shift began, he needed to be rushed back to surgery for a problem in his abdomen.

A baby was admitted who had been shot and had a suspected spinal injury.

We transferred three patients out with the Critical Air-Support Team and they will be taken from Camp Bastion to Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham.

At the end of the shift we were stood by for two seriously injured UK soldiers, one a bilateral amputee who lost his legs.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 7 The teenage boy I'd been caring for died today. His father was devastated but appreciative of the care he had received.

An Afghan policeman was brought in - he'd been shot in the neck. A UK soldier with head injuries was with us for 20 minutes before a rapid transfer to Kandahar for further treatment.

THURSDAY, JULY 8 Night shift. My patient was a toddler, three or four years old, who had been shot in the side and had abdominal injuries.

The Taliban seem to be shooting a significant amount of kids - there are various opinions as to why. One rumour is they are using the children as target practice. Another theory is that they want to overwhelm our medical facilities so soldiers can't go out on patrol.

SATURDAY, JULY 10 Major incident at one of the FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) when Afghan National Police opened fire on each other.

The casualties were split between Bastion and the nearby US camp.

We had 10 patients and needed to bring extra staff in to help. By the early evening we'd transferred five patients out. Then, just as we were leaving, we heard another Afghan National Army soldier was coming to us, a double amputee.

FRIDAY, JULY 16 Day shift. I looked after an Afghan National Army soldier who was shot in the head. Most of his head had been blown off. He was still alive but in a poor condition. He passed away in the evening.

FRIDAY, JULY 23 Night shift. There were four patients in the department tonight, including an EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War) and a three-year-old with a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Our replacements had arrived earlier. I had to prepare my handover for paediatrics. It has been a challenging role but it was great to be able to get ready to hand it over.

MONDAY, JULY 26 In the morning, I handed over paediatrics to the incoming team.

On night shift. There were three paediatric patients - the three-year-old with the gunshot wound, an eight-year-old boy who shot himself through the foot and pelvis while playing with a gun, and a seven-year-old caught in an IED blast with abdominal injuries and amputated fingers from the left hand.

There were quite a few enemy prisoners of war in the hospital while I was there and naturally there was some bad feeling about them but the Geneva Convention means we treat them humanely, the same as our own soldiers, whatever you feel.

The main injuries we see are burns, ballistic trauma injuries, mine strikes, blast fragmentation and gunshot wounds.

Being so near to the front line means medics and nurses are able to perform immediate surgery and treatment on casualties, which saves life and limbs.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 28 At work until 1pm then packed and hung around. Moved all my kit to the flight line and checked in for the flight to Kandahar Airfield. Finishing the last shift, you're so glad it's over and you're going home.

I have a huge sense of pride in the work I did there because I know that I was able, along with my colleagues, to make a difference. Regardless of what the politics are, or the reasons for fighting, as a nurse I am in a position to save lives and have a positive impact on the people.

Although it is terrible that so many young people are being seriously injured and losing limbs, at least we are able to give them the best possible chance.

I got home to Glasgow on August 2 and had my first glass of wine in months - I had to water it down with lemonade.


Ready for duty: Nurse Jo in transit while saving many lives working at Camp Bastion
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 29, 2010
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