A doctor without borders
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.