Frontline horrors of life in Afghan field hospital

Reporter:

Hayley Collins

A SENIOR army officer has spoken of the daily horrors he faces working at a field hospital in Afghanistan.

Major Simon Davies, who is originally from Wrexham but now lives in Staffordshire, featured in a BBC Wales Today programme yesterday where he gave an emotional recollection of life at the Camp Bastion Field Hospital.

Major Davies, who is regimental nursing officer for 207 Field Hospital Manchester, is the officer commanding the emergency department.

The unit is widely acknowledged as the best of its kind in the world.

Every day staff see and treat appalling injuries.

While awaiting the arrival of an Afghan child who had her legs blown off after stepping on an IED, Major Davies calmly spoke about the horrors he witnesses on a daily basis.

“You are bewildered the first time you see some of these horrific injuries,” he said.

“It doesn’t get better with time, but you learn to cope with it.

“I personally keep things locked up in a little box in my brain and frankly that’s the only way to deal with it because we are seeing horrendous injuries and as opposed to the NHS a lot of our casualties are below the age of 25.

“Therefore you’re dealing with the younger generation.”

The staff at the hospital are a mixture of Territorial Army soldiers and regulars.

Major Davies added: “The staff here do see terrible injuries. Debriefing sessions are important. We do see unique trauma that you would only see in places like Afghanistan. Therefore we have to handle the staff carefully.”

A padre is on hand whose role it is to talk staff through some of the difficult issues and ethical challenges they face, which includes treating the insurgents.

Major Davies said one of the biggest challenges was putting aside personal feelings to treat a casualty who may have been responsible for killing or injuring coalition troops or Afghan civilians.

He added: “We’re in a foreign land doing our bit and I just try to take the emotion out of it.

“We have the insurgents here as casualties and we have to deliver the same standard of care as if it’s a UK squaddie.”

Major Davies, who first served in Afghanistan in 2006, says the insurgents are often scared and confused when they wake up in the hospital.

“Clearly they are a detainee when they come here and they are guarded on the ward.”

He added: “Some of the guys find it difficult that we have to do this, but we’re here and it is the role of military nursing to cope with this as best we can.”

See full story in the Leader

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