Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Camp Bastion - Healing All the Wounded

Camp Bastion belongs to the British Army and is the largest military instillation built by Great Britain since World War II. At this point it is a tent city in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. The soldiers stationed there liken it to living on the moon. The vast desert and open hazy horizon could be compared to the lunar landscape. Sand as fine as talcum powder covers everything in a dusty film.

The floors of the hospital are thick with the dust. Even with strong tent walls, industrial sized air conditioning units and filtration systems, there is a constant battle for sterility in the patient care areas. In spite of a harsh environment where every supply must be flown in, the staff at Camp Bastion Hospital work with state of the art equipment designed to save lives. And that is what the staff does day after day - for Coalition soldiers, Afghan civilians, Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters alike. It doesn't matter, all life is precious.

The hospital is one sprawling tent. It has a five-bed emergency center and a ward with space for twenty-five patients, although it has held as many as fifty at one time. White canvas walls enclose the graphic scene - red blood spattered on the green vests of the staff and the blood soaked khaki uniforms of the injured soldiers, silver dials, and blue LED lights flashing vital numbers. It's war and it's not pretty.

The doctors, who in civilian life might do two surgeries a week, perform as many as seven operations a day. Their skills are tested as they repair bodies battered and torn apart by explosives and shrapnel.

Lt. Colonel Peter Davis normally spends his days working in a hospital in Glasgow, Scotland. Now he's a medic at Camp Bastion. He's proud of his work and says that there is a great professional satisfaction and reward in the successes that have been achieved at this field hospital. He says that each UK serviceman who has reached British Military Hospital Helmand alive has left there alive. That is a record to be proud of.

The hardest group for the staff to treat are the Afghan children caught up in the battles. The confusion in their eyes is haunting. Surgeons worked for hours on a young girl whose arm was crushed by an Afghan National Army vehicle. They saved her limb and after five weeks of treatment she was able to move her fingers and will have the use of her arm.

Another young girl, photographed by a Getty journalist, lay in a hospital bed while nurses tend to her burned face. She recovered but will be marked for life. Lt. Colonel Davis told of a boy whose legs were injured after stepping on a mine left years ago by the former Soviet Union. The boy underwent a series of operations and now has use of his legs.

These doctors and medical personnel are doing their best in an impossible situation, upholding their calling to repair and heal all that enter their doors. When the conflict ends their jobs will end and they can go back to normal lives. I pray that will be soon...until that day, I'm grateful people like Dr. Davis and the others are there holding the hands of the children and easing their pain.


JD said...

Great story Lisa. It's nice to be able to read about positive steps being taken in Afghanistan. It seems to me that the only stories coming out are killings of coalition troops by roadside bombs and suicide attacks. To me, this is a refreshing story about compassion and hope.

Lisa McGlaun said...


It's clear that things are not good in Afghanistan and imporvement needs to be made quickly. But like alot of international and national conflicts, when you bring it down to the human level most people are striving to do what is right and treat each other deacently, even under wartime conditions.

Emmy said...

This post was amazing, thank you so much for sharing this I really enjoyed reading it. Your soldiers, nurses and doctors are amazing and brave.

Lisa McGlaun said...


I saw a photo story in a magazine that really moved me so I started researching Camp Bastion. It know that war is awful and many people think we have done the wrong thing in the middle east, including Afghansitan. I'll withold my opinion and say that these people at Camp Bastion are trying to stop the pain and that is admirable.