Army medic’s Afghan knife drama
BBC News / Monday, 10 March 2008
A Territorial Army medical officer from Caernarfon in Gwynedd helped save the life of a 10-year-old Afghan boy.
Major Stephen Gallacher was working in a field hospital in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, when the boy had a three-inch knife removed from his head.
Now back working at Ysbyty Gwynedd’s A&E department in Bangor, Mr Gallacher has just been awarded three medals for his army work.
The father-of-four said his experience in Afghanistan was an “eye-opener”.
“The boy’s injury was really a freak incident,” said Mr Gallacher.
The charge nurse at Bangor, who works as a senior nurse with 208 Field Hospital in Afghanistan, added: “It was a horrendous sight, I did not think he would survive.”
The 10-year-old had been stabbed when he tried to protect his father during a row with a customer in his shop in Kandahar.
The customer lunged for the boy’s father and stabbed the boy with the knife going in behind his eye and penetrating the front of his brain.
His father took him to a military base in Kandahar and pleaded with doctors to save him, and he was flown to Camp Bastion where Mr Gallacher was based for the operation at a tented field hospital.
“The father came with him and had a translator explained what was being done,” explained Mr Gallacher
“The father was very quiet and calm and the whole situation was very surreal, because if the same thing had happened in Bangor the whole family would be here with a lot of crying.
“When the child was discharged later there was no police involvement either, the village elders were going to deal with it. It was really weird,” he added.
Results in minutes
Life in Afghanistan was an eye-opener, he added, as the country has no hospitals and the army was only able to provide “life, limb and eyesight” treatment.
Techniques and experiences from the field are useful when back at Ysbyty Gwynedd with some things even more high-tech in the Territorial Army, he said.
“In Bangor I’d wait 20 to 30 minutes for a series of trauma x-rays, but in the field they used digital x-rays which give us the results in minutes which means decisions can be made quickly,” he added.
Mr Gallacher was presented with two campaign medals and a long-service medal, at an award ceremony in Liverpool, for his part in the Afghan mission.