This month, with World Humanitarian Day marked on 19th August, we’re celebrating our members and the teams they work alongside all over the world.
“ I remember the children playing happily with each other throughout the camp and a great sense of community spirit. It was easy to become immersed in the culture around the camp.”
Paediatric nurse and UK-Med member Stephanie Chadwick shares her experience of working as part of the UK-Med team supporting the UK Emergency Medical Team response to an outbreak of diphtheria spreading through Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, part of UK aid’s wider response to the Rohingya refugee crisis.
I qualified as a paediatric nurse in 2011 and have worked predominately in the emergency medicine setting. Nursing is a career I thoroughly enjoy and find rewarding. In 2017 I joined the UK-Med register with the ambition of enhancing and utilising my skills and knowledge from my clinical setting and training in the UK and to seek opportunities to transfer and adapt these within the humanitarian sector. I was successful in accomplishing the requirements to register and was lucky enough to be deployed during my first on call period in December 2017. I remember being at work when I got the instruction that I would be deployed to Bangladesh to assist with the diphtheria outbreak amongst the Rohingya population. I was filled with excitement and trepidation as I started getting messages and information about the deployment.
The response was fast and within a few days I was travelling to Heathrow to meet with the team and start the journey. The nerves and excitement in the atmosphere were palpable; most people were meeting each other for the first time, nervous about what to expect and with mixed emotions at leaving their families soon after the festive period.
We soon arrived in Bangladesh. Although we landed at night-time the streets where still a hive of activity, with locals dashing around to avoid the meandering tuk tuks. The sound of hustle and bustle in the darkness echoing through the streets were enhanced by the aromatic smells of the local spices.
After a rest and briefing we were keen to get to work, and we set off as a team to the camps where we would be working. At first glance the camp seemed even more densely populated than I could have ever imagined, a maze of bamboo structures along dust tracks in every direction. The task ahead seemed daunting. With the shell of the bamboo structure of the diphtheria treatment centre surrounding us it felt very far from home. The most settling element I can remember is seeing the happiness and welcoming faces of the locals as they delighted in the knowledge that we had come to help.
Whilst the logistics were sorted and the diphtheria treatment centre prepared to open, we spent time talking to the local medics about diphtheria treatment, reactions and the process that we would be working together to treat. The local staff were so enthusiastic to learn and practice new skills, embracing each and every one of us.
I remember the children playing happily with each other throughout the camp and a great sense of community spirit. It was easy to become immersed in the culture around the camp.
Working with UK–Med is a fantastic opportunity to support those who are in greater need than us. It really opens your eyes and gives you the chance to explore other countries and cultures and enhance your clinical practice. As much as you go out to support those in need, you come back having learnt a wealth of information and skills that you can carry forward in your future practice, along with a sense of satisfaction that I have never experienced before. I have gained lifelong experiences that will stay with me and the deployment deepened my desire to give more to such deserving disasters/emergencies and all those affected in some way.