Nursing in Gaza: "Most of the patients we see have gunshot wounds in the legs"
A young man is wounded in the demonstrations on 14 May 2018. Photo: Laurence Geai
Annke and some of the nursing team at the Khan Younis Clinic. Photo: MSF.
Each morning I take a 45-minute drive to the clinic in Khan Younis and have my daily Arabic lesson with the friendly MSF driver. I decided that on this assignment I will make much more of an effort to learn a bit the local language. After a few weeks I am fluent in greeting the staff and patients in Arabic!
The clinic is a busy place bustling with nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, stretcher bearers, drivers, watchmen and wounded people needing care.
I work in the two clinics in the south, Khan Younis and Nuseirat. We give post-operative care to patients with gunshot injuries and also treat other trauma and burn wounds from the local community. I’m always greeted with a friendly smile and a hand wave when I assist and teach the nurse while performing a procedure.
The Palestinian nurses are friendly, compassionate, skilled and very motivated to help their people recover. Most of the patients will be in the clinic program for many months as the healing and rehabilitation from the gunshot wounds can take a long time.
I soon realized that I was not skilled in treating the patients with “ex-fix” (external fixators) in their legs. These metal rods protrude from the patient’s leg and they keep the bone fragments aligned, enabling the bone to heal straight and give the patient function in the injured limb.
I humbly asked the team to teach me how to do this specific wound care procedure. I became the student and my colleagues Subbah and Asad became my teachers.
A man who was shot in his legs during protests at the Gaza/Israel border fence enters an MSF clinic. Photo: Spencer Platt
The week of my ex-fix lesson had particularly hot weather, with temperatures up to 42 degrees Celsius! During the procedure the sweat was running rivets down my face and the nurse I was working with gently dabbed my forehead while my hands were in the sterile gloves.
After some excellent instruction and guidance I am now confident and can do this wound care procedure. It was a good experience to be the student again!