IT’S a hospital like no other in the world – in the heart of a desert warzone.
The patients often have gunshot wounds or bits of shrapnel lodged in their bodies.
And at any moment a siren could sound – warning medics to hit the deck under the possible threat of a Taliban attack.
Afghanistan’s Camp Bastion is a far cry from Queen Alexandra Hospital, where NHS nurse and Royal Navy Reservist Elaine Grist is used to treating patients.
And today the courage of Elaine and Royal Navy medics like her was being recognised with a visit from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Elaine spent 15 weeks there as a theatre nurse under extraordinary pressure.
She said: ‘We would deal with amputations, gunshot wounds and people coming in with shrapnel lodged in them.
‘You never know what’s coming in until they get into theatre.
‘You don’t know how many people you could be treating, whether they are military or children, you just keep going.’
During today’s ceremony at HMS Excellent, Whale Island, the Duchess was due to meet medics who were deployed as part of Operation Herrick 14.
While in Afghanistan the team provided trauma care and first aid at Camp Bastion hospital for six months – treating 3,600 patients.
Commander Paul Jones, Commanding Officer of HMS Excellent, said: ‘The medics provide life-saving medical care and first aid, often under highly pressurised and gruelling conditions.’
He added: ‘It’s important to both the individuals and their families that their valuable work and our pride in their efforts are publicly recognised.’
‘It touched my heart to be appreciated’
THEY are three words that she will never forget – ‘Thank you Elaine’.
They were spoken by a four-year-old boy to nurse Elaine Grist, while she was in Afghanistan between July and October last year.
The child had been caught in crossfire and was taken to the hospital at Camp Bastion for help.
Medics found fragments from a gunshot wound had become lodged in his heart.
As a theatre nurse, Elaine, who works at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, prepped surgical equipment so the boy could be operated on.
The procedure was a success and the youngster spent five days recovering in hospital.
Elaine said: ‘I went into the wards because I like to see how children are doing, and the boy was there with a big smile on his face.
‘He spoke to his grandad in Pashto, then he grabbed my hand, kissed my hand, and said “Thank you Elaine”.
‘That touched my heart as it’s nice to be appreciated.
‘The children always recognise us and smile at us ‑ they know we are trying to help them.’