Captain Sush Ramakrishna writes about being catapulted back into Afghanistan, at Camp Bastion hospital.
Summer had not arrived in the UK, but getting off the plane with wind and rain in the face was a pleasant welcome after the last few months of unrelenting heat, scorching sun and dust. I was back in the UK hoping to find out where my future would take me. I have realised that nothing can be taken for granted however. I was offered a job in surgical training, but as the needs of the military take priority I suddenly found myself rescheduled to go back to Afghanistan. Straight away.
After initially being upset when I was told that I was not starting my hospital job, I was quietly glad because I knew that I would be back with the troops. My stay in the UK was short so I had little time to reflect on things which had happened over the previous months. Spending time with my parents and friends was good and gave me a chance to re-focus on the next few months ahead. I also found out that the new Dr Watson (in Sherlock on the BBC) had actually served on the current campaign in Afghanistan like his creator during the early Afghan wars.
When I got back to Afghanistan, I was told that I would be working in the hospital at Camp Bastion. Over the last two years, having spent majority of my time in primary care, I was looking forward to getting back into hospital surroundings and re-familiarising myself with the hectic working environment. Being the junior doctor in the hospital I have been given great opportunities to learn new skills. Dealing with battle casualties in the Emergency Department (ED) has certainly improved my clinical and procedural skills. Working under experienced and dedicated surgeons in the Operating Room (OR) I have gained invaluable insight to the specialty and under their supervision I have been able to reinforce my operating skills. On the whole, this experience has reinforced my ambition to train as a military surgeon. From a training perspective, following a patient from the ED to the OR and then finally to being discharged is something junior doctors are not often exposed to but I have managed to be involved in the patient’s care right from the time he arrives to the time of discharge.
The troops receive the best possible care with each expert providing the right input in the management. This is probably the least the troops can expect – expert medical care near to the frontline. Along with the doctors, the nursing staff, physiotherapists and other allied professionals work extremely hard to make sure that the best quality of care is given to the soldier presenting at the front door. The majority of the patients are NATO troops – US, UK, Georgians and Estonians.
Camp Bastion Role 3 hospital receives more trauma cases than most trauma centres in the world. The ED and OR work at a very fast tempo and the efficiency is down to the training we get prior to the deployment. American and British doctors work side by side and the expertise each one brings to the table is very beneficial to the team. I have been very lucky to have surgeons and ED doctors willing to teach me new skills and procedures. I have personally been in awe of the senior doctors in this place!