Monday, November 15, 2010

Angel of the Air - a Canadian Nurse in Afghanistan shares Quilts of Valour, donated from across Canada with wounded Soldiers

Words from a " Canadian Angel", a nurse who helps those who have shed their blood in battle...her words are far better than mine at describing the wonderful work that she does. She provides care and shares Quilts of Valour, donated from across Canada

God Bless her, the Canadian Quilters and all like her.

Angel of the air
November 14, 2010
The Hamilton Spectator, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

There is a quiet moment just before the Challenger jet begins its final descent, when an “Angel of the Air” nurse slips in beside the wounded Canadian soldier and hands him or her a handmade quilt.

The injured soldier’s journey from battlefield to back home has already been long. And, for most, the real journey is just beginning. But, in that private moment, simple handcrafted pieces of cloth become a profound symbol of gratitude.

“There aren’t a lot of words spoken,” said Captain Joelle Beaudoin, an aeromedical evacuation flight nurse. “But, oh, what you can see in their eyes.”

A new batch of the Quilts of Valour, donated from across Canada, were draped throughout St. John’s Anglican Church in Winona yesterday for a “blessing” service, and Beaudoin was there to tell her story.

Born in Montreal, the 27-year-old found herself intrigued by news coverage of nurses working in combat zones, and by Hollywood depictions of nurses tending to the wounded.

Six years ago, she decided to become a military nurse and joined the Canadian Forces. In 2009, she was deployed to Afghanistan. Nothing, she said, could have prepared her what she would experience.

“It is hard to explain the feeling when you see a Canadian soldier coming to your trauma bay, because he or she has been seriously injured by an improvised explosive device,” she told the St. John’s parishioners.

“At times, it could be an extremely emotional and distressing experience … knowing a soldier’s life has been changed forever.

“In those moments, there is an overwhelming desire to help the soldier and to heal him.”

The bulk of medical work was treating Afghan soldiers, police and civilians who were injured in conflict or ill from living in poor health conditions. “There were a lot of amputations, burns and fractures.”

One patient in particular changed her life with his smile, she said.

He was only 12 years old and was the sole provider for his family. The boy was selling juice to the locals outside Kandahar Air Field when he was injured by a landmine. Both his legs had to be amputated.

“The next day when I started my shift, I was greeted by his smile. I was reminded how precious life can be, and was overcome with admiration for this young boy. Here his life was changed forever, and he was still smiling.

“I will always remember his courage and strength and carry his spirit with me forever.”

Sometimes when wounded Canadian soldiers were brought back to the Kandahar Air Field hospital, there was not enough blood available and the doctors had to activate emergency blood clinics.

“When the announcement went out over the intercom requesting help, we were overwhelmed with recipients who were willing to donate,” she said. “Imagine holding in your hand a small bag of fresh whole blood that is still warm.”

After her Afghanistan tour, Beaudoin was posted to the Aeromedical Evacuation Flight unit stationed at Trenton airbase, and became an “Angel of the Air” responsible for repatriating wounded soldiers from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where U.S. and Canadian casualties are sent from the battlefield.

Elaborate preparation goes into flying the wounded soldier home, and the “angels” do everything they can to provide a “bubble of dignity and respect” around the soldiers to make their journey back as stress-free as possible.

Beaudoin has made the trip seven times.

“I realize that I am not able to create a world without violence, but what I can do is try to make the life of a wounded solder a little bit easier.”

The quilt, so emblematic of home, means so much to the soldiers, she said.

“It’s a hug and a thank-you,” she said. “From all of Canada.”

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