Sunday, 14 February 2016

Doing surgery in a tent in the snow

is not "fun". It's a deadly serious business. 
One of the aid workers I work with sometimes sent me a message this morning to say that the doctor I had written a communication board for some time ago had successfully completed a second major piece of surgery by using it.
It was nice of them to let me know. I don't feel I was doing much to help. I had plenty of help from other people to set the board up. 
It was other people who did the hard work - the dangerous work.
You see the doctor was operating in a tent in the snow. He thinks of it as luxury quarters because this tent has a floor of sorts - wooden pallets covered in plastic that they can wash down. The place is not sterile. They have to keep the flaps open to let some light in. There was some anaesthetic this time - administered by a woman who has a little nursing training under the direction of the doctor.
I don't know anything about anaesthetics but this was apparently not the right sort - just better than nothing at all. It was major, urgent surgery to try and save the life of a woman who told them she is twenty-three. She has four children of her own and she is caring for seven more from her village. They walked for "only nine days" to get to the relative safety of a refugee camp on the border of their warring country. There's no heating and almost no food and there are seventeen people crowded into one tent. That tent is the one to which she must return and try to recover. They consider themselves lucky to have the tent. 
I don't know how to explain this to other people who say, "How can you side with government policy on refugees?" I know they are appalled by my apparent support for it. I try to explain that I don't want to see people locked away. I don't "support" it at all.  My problem is something rather different. People who have shelter and food every day, access to medical services, education, legal aid, and community support are - relatively speaking -  well off. To suggest that these conditions are "appalling" and that the problems people are facing are due solely to those conditions is simply wrong.
The media which is all too happy to report all this is not giving the same emphasis to the truly appalling conditions being faced by some refugees - people who really do have nowhere else to go. 
It would be politically inconvenient. It wouldn't sell.

2 comments:

virtualquilter said...

"The media which is all too happy to report all this is not giving the same emphasis to the truly appalling conditions being faced by some refugees - people who really do have nowhere else to go."

Exactly!

Anonymous said...

I have been to Nauru. The conditions there are nothing like the conditions described by the media and those being held in detention. It's not like living comfortably in the suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne but,compared with what you describe, conditions are excellent.
ST