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Tim's story: Pakistan hospital diary

28 August 2009

Male nurse with boy in hospital bedBRCBritish Red Cross nurse Tim Stephens is working at the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) hospital in Peshawar, helping those wounded in the Pakistan crisis. He reports back on his first five weeks:

Working at the hospital for war-wounded here in Peshawar has, so far, been very rewarding and sometimes very difficult. The setting is surreal, with a series of large, air conditioned tents occupying an empty lot in a suburb of the town, near to where we live.

There are nine of us, coming from across the globe. We all have different backgrounds, which is great as between us we have a huge wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon. 

I arrived several months into the life of the hospital and it was amazing to see how much has been achieved already. Now, I think we are entering a period of ‘fine tuning’, where we can develop staff and hospital processes to make care of patients even better.

Improving hygiene

I am currently working on a project to improve staff hand hygiene. This is similar to my role at Barts and The London NHS Trust, so I feel right at home, even though everything else – context, environment, and types of patient – are so different.

Talking of patients – they are, almost without fail, charming, friendly and very grateful for the care they are receiving. Working with them is a pleasure and makes the 180 hours per month at work totally worthwhile.

Many have injuries, sustained by bomb blasts, gunshots, mortar shelling or land mines. Their cheer and courage in the face of adversity – pain, separation from loved ones, weeks of immobility in traction and the prospect of future disability – is frankly inspiring.

Wounded children

The only patients I find difficult to deal with are the children. They make me very sad. We all do our best to give these brave boys, and occasionally girls, extra attention, trying to help them through the stress of injury and being in hospital.

Last week, we brought one little boy, Hazrat, 12, a radio. Hazrat stepped on a mine while going to help his auntie, who had just activated a mine herself and was lying injured. He has lost his right foot, has a fractured femur requiring traction and has badly injured hands.

For the past week, Hazrat has been asking us for a radio. He promised that if we got him one he would sing. So we did and his singing has been wonderful. The picture of disbelief and joy on his face when we gave it to him was amazing. He was so happy. Moments like this are what make being here really worthwhile.   

Challenging environment

That isn’t to say living here in Peshawar isn’t without its difficulties. The heat itself is a major issue – since I have been here it has averaged about 45 degrees centigrade each day. Try wandering around in shirt, trousers and a white coat in that heat!

So five weeks in and how do I feel? Happy to be here – definitely. Looking forward to going home – absolutely.

I have been amazed and humbled by the wonderful people I have met here. They are warm and courageous people facing huge challenges due to the current crisis and I feel very lucky that I, through the Red Cross, am able to do something to help them. 

Watch a video about Alina recovering from a bomb blast

Find out more about the Pakistan Crisis Appeal