Samaritan’s Purse’s emergency field hospital near Mosul, Iraq. A Red Deer-area nurse recently returned from a three-week stint at the hospital. (Photo contributed by Samaritan’s Purse)

After three weeks near the front lines in Mosul, Iraq, Red Deer area nurse returns home

Helping wounded near battle against ISIS

After having to amputate the leg of a young girl pulled from the fighting in Mosul, Iraq, a Red Deer area nurse was given a singular task.

Spend the night holding this scared and hurt little girl.

“The only way we could get her to sleep was if she was being held,” Emily said. “My job for a night was just holding this little girl and just trying to keep her soothed. Knowing who knows what was going to happen after she leaves.”

Emily, her name is being withheld at the request of Samaritan’s Purse to protect her and her family from ISIS retaliation, has returned to her Red Deer area nursing job.

But for three weeks she was on the front lines of the fight against ISIS, as an intensive care unit nurse. She worked at Samaritan’s Purse’s emergency field hospital near Mosul for three weeks.

Emily has always worked in critical care and said the injuries she witnessed in Mosul weren’t all that different from what she’s experienced in Alberta. However, she has always worked with adults and a large number of the patients she saw in Iraq were civilian women and children.

“That was the most difficult part for me,” she said. “Seeing the kids who were injured, hit by shrapnel or a fragment or a sniper. Recognizing these kids are too young to understand what’s going on, let alone being able to cope with what’s happened to them.

“They’re brought to this hospital where nobody is speaking their language, we look different, it’s a scary and they’re terrified.”

She learned to comfort them through body language and as much non-verbal communication as they could.

She applied for Samaritan’s Purse’s disaster response team and when the World Health Organization approached Samaritan’s Purse about starting the field hospital, Emily got an email telling her about it and the need for staff.

“I was well suited for it, I already had an application in,” said Emily, who had also worked with Samaritan’s Purse to help after the 2011 Haiti earthquake. “I made a few phone calls and was able to get a three week deployment.”

It all came together quickly. The hospital opened in January of this year and she got there the second week of February.

Her first day was spent doing security training. She called it extensive and blunt talking about potential threats and the circumstances they found themselves in.

“The first 24 hours messes with you senses,” said Emily. “It’s very loud, it’s all grey, we’re surrounded by blast walls. The smell, the sights are all overwhelming.

“I was transported to the hospital that night. I was thrown right into it. I didn’t have time to adjust to where I was, I had to hit the ground running.”

Relying on her training and experience, Emily got right to work. The adjustments came by working with different products, medications and resources. Working without narcotics at first, they were left using Tylenol to treat pain.

Bombing and fighting typically started in the late evening, Emily said the first artillery rounds were heard around 10 or 11 p.m.

“That continued on until the morning,” she said. “Working amid that and learning how to have that just be background noise and have it be something you didn’t think about, but to do what you could with the casualties that came through the door.”

Their closeness to the front lines, there was always a danger of the fighting coming to where they were.

“Going into it, I knew very well what I was getting into,” she said. “I think the scared moments were when the fighting got closer, or in the transports. The moments when I felt something could happen here and thought about what I would do.

“You had to put that aside because you had to do your work. Until our security guys told me I had to be somewhere, I kept doing my job.”

Traveling from their camp to the field hospital was when Emily and others were most exposed to potential danger. To be able to work at the field hospital, Emily had to complete the United Nations land mine and improvised explosive device training.

“Just to be aware of your surroundings and if a worst case scenario were to take place, what we should do,” she said. “All to make sure we wouldn’t be caught off-guard.”

Emily said she would go back or do something similar to this in the future.

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