A BUILTH Wells Army Nurse has been providing world class healthcare to around 1,800 UN personnel in the war-torn country of South Sudan.
Lieutenant Gemma Probert, a former pupil of Builth Wells High School, is currently deployed on Operation Trenton which is the UK contribution to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
She is based in Bentiu, in the north of the country in the UK Level 2 Hospital and her role as a General Nurse on the ward department has seen her deal with a variety of illnesses and injuries including many tropical diseases and snake bites.
“It’s an incredibly challenging environment. Temperatures on the ward commonly hit 38 degrees, there is limited kit and equipment, the re-supply chain is slow and when it rains we have to do our best to stop the hospital from flooding,” she said.
Since arriving, the UK Task Force has experienced the full force of South Sudan’s wet season.
“The rain is torrential and like nothing I have seen before; it brings storms of Biblical strength. It fills up the drainage ditches in minutes; issued wellies were certainly one of the most vital items on our packing list,” said Lt Probert.
The environment in South Sudan is a world away from what Lt Probert is used to at James Cook University Hospital where she is usually based. While some of the work is similar to the trauma cases she often deals with, patients here present more complex infections and tropical diseases, such as malaria, shigella, undifferentiated febrile illness, snake bites and scorpion stings.
“I have looked after patients with chest pain, norovirus, diarrhoea and vomiting, burns, respiratory conditions and soft tissue injuries; conditions I would commonly see in the UK. However, here I am working in a Role 2 Hospital; a temporary tented facility and the rate of presentations is much lower,” she said. Other differences include unexpected visitors to the ward such as a monitor lizard which was found in the intensive care unit recently.
The tempo of this UN mission is such that it has allowed hospital staff to take on some additional tasks: “We have been able to begin reaching out to the local hospital to see if we can provide any training or engineering support so that we can have a more lasting impact to the people of South Sudan.
Lt Probert will return home to Builth Wells in the new year with some interesting experiences to share with her brother who commissioned into the Royal Welsh earlier this month.
“When the UK task force eventually leaves South Sudan, we will be leaving behind a permanent Role 2 Hospital, built by the Engineers and handed over to the Vietnamese to continue the healthcare support we are currently providing,” she said. “To be a nurse is always a privilege, however, to do so amidst such a backdrop that UNMISS provides, has been a truly amazing experience.”