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Nurse Irma: ‘It got too busy in her head’

20 Apr

Irma takes us along on her shift in the camp on Lesvos, where she meets many traumatised people. She says: "It is a cold evening shift with a lot of wind and rain when a young woman reports to the clinic. I escort her to the pleasantly warm Hospitainer. She tells me that she has been having leg problems for years - especially her knees hurt. Tonight the complaints reached a climax. Unfortunately, we can't do much more than offer appropriate exercises and paracetamol.

A few hours later, I see her again. She is huddled on a bench. I see that she has a wound on her lower leg and ask her in sign language what has happend. She reacts absently. When I ask her if she did this herself, her partner nods affirmatively. She tells me that she has fled and has four young children with whom she has lost contact. She cries and turns her head away. She wants to leave this camp and hopes that we can help her. I ask her why she cut herself and treat her wound. She says she doesn’t remember; it got too busy in her head. I check again whether I can let her return to her tent. Talks with the psychologist had already started.

During another shift, I speak to a man in his forties. He says he has been there the previous evening and that paracetamol did not help against the turbulence in his head. He wants stronger medication and absolutely no psychological support. Apart from explaining that medication is not the solution, but that conversations can provide tools and space to deal with the situation, I can offer him nothing. The next morning, he comes in for a change of bandage. He tells me that he has branded his arm and leg with cigarette butts. Again, he says he would like stronger painkillers so he doesn’t have to feel the agitation and pain he is experiencing.”

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