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I spent six months working in Kodok as a nurse with the International Committee of the Red Cross. I was part of a Red Cross surgical team – my colleagues hailing from Ukraine, Finland and Tajikistan.
Most of the patients treated by Red Cross are victims of this country’s civil war. Since civil war broke out in December 2013, tens of thousands of people have died, many more have been wounded and up to 2 million displaced. Many of those who are injured arrive with gunshot wounds and some, travelling for days to reach the hospital, have developed overwhelming infections.
Whether they are injured fighters or civilians, we stick to our Red Cross values of impartiality and neutrality, and treat each and every one of them with equal care, respect and dignity.
I worked alongside our eternally optimistic South Sudanese hospital colleagues to prepare patients for surgery and care for them afterwards. Sometimes, when a particularly difficult case arrived, I assisted the surgeon and scrub nurse in the operating room.
One such case was an operation to amputate the leg of a 19-year-old man. He had developed gangrene after a bullet passed through his upper thigh. The leg had to come off to save the man’s life.
In Kodok, some days are hot and dusty and others hot and muddy, but it is always hot. When the local airport runway was waterlogged and planes had trouble landing, the menu was sometimes reduced to rice sandwiches and rice on toast. We had to be on alert for mosquito-borne diseases and ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
Despite the challenges, being a Red Cross nurse is an extremely rewarding role. Helping patients survive life-threatening injuries is a feeling like no other.