A doc­tor with­out borders

Central Leader - - NEWS -

Each time nurse Maria Ruiz grabs a ban­dage or even washes her hands she re­flects on how lucky she is.

Ruiz spent a month work­ing in tough con­di­tions in the war-torn Cen­tral African Repub­lic (CAR) along­side other Doc­tors With­out Borders vol­un­teers in a hospi­tal emer­gency depart­ment.

Thou­sands of people have been killed and a mil­lion made home­less af­ter con­flict broke out in CAR last year as Mus­lim rebels seized power in the mostly Chris­tian coun­try.

Three staff mem­bers of the med­i­cal char­ity, also known as Medecins Sans Fron­tieres, were killed dur­ing an armed rob­bery on hospi­tal grounds in the north­ern town of Bogu­ila on April 26.

Ruiz was aware of the risks but af­ter four years of wait­ing for the op­por­tu­nity it wasn’t enough to put her off sign­ing up.

‘‘It was so dif­fi­cult to get leave so when that was ap­proved noth­ing was go­ing to stop me,’’ the Green­lane charge nurse says.

It’s hard to imag­ine surgeons not hav­ing wa­ter to wash their hands be­fore surgery, but that was the case be­fore the med­i­cal char­ity stepped in.

‘‘I’m now more aware about how dif­fi­cult it is for med­i­cal staff in other coun­tries,’’ Ruiz says.

‘‘Here we take ev­ery­thing for granted – pa­tients had to bring their own wa­ter for the sur­geon to wash their hands at one stage.’’

The hospi­tal is also des­per­ately short of sup­plies so it means a lot of think­ing on your feet, she says.

‘‘We ran out of plas­ter of Paris for frac­tures so we just started us­ing card­board. You have to con­stantly think ‘we don’t have that so let’s use this’ – your mind needs to be work­ing all the time.’’

It was the lo­cal staff’s ded­i­ca­tion and self­less­ness that struck the big­gest chord with the One Tree Hill res­i­dent.

‘‘When we were there they were com­ing in on their days off be­cause they wanted to learn and to help.’’

Ruiz hopes to vol­un­teer with the char­ity again in the fu­ture.

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