Syrian mercy dash
A FEW months ago Lennox Head woman Anna Dicker donned Syrian clothes, assumed an Arabic name and was smuggled from Turkey across the border into the heart of the Syrian civil war.
She was working with Médecins Sans Frontières and had been tasked to help set up a trauma hospital.
"We went in at night and they told me not to talk. It was quite hairy," she said.
"But MSF is really good with its security and although there were some tense moments, I never felt frightened."
Mrs Dicker spent three months at the hospital as the head nurse and running the pharmacy.
She said there were several times when they packed their bags "in case the tanks came over the hill".
"Thankfully they never did; we were not attacked," she said.
The trauma hospital only had 13 beds and at first we were just so busy, working 14-hour days treating war injuries.
"All of our medical equipment had to be smuggled across the border.
"The Turkish Government knew what we were doing and they assisted us.
"At one point we got desperately low on morphine and I kept the last of it in my pockets.
"But then resources would come in again."
Bullet wounds, shelling wounds, amputations, chronic diseases, scorpion bites and snake bites were just some of the conditions Mrs Dicker and her team saw over the three months.
She said the movement of internally displaced people also had a huge impact on the area.
"The town went from having 6000 people to having 40,000," she said.
"That's when things become very hectic.
"The hardest thing is seeing children and civilians getting injured in the war.
"One night we did four amputations. In the three months we had more than 1000 patients."
Now home at Lennox Head, where she offers alternative health services, Mrs Dicker is appreciative of the support of her family, including her husband, Graeme.
"The first few days back home are hard ... a lot of people ask about my work, but if you tell them, they start to feel guilty," she said.
"And you don't want to traumatise people.
"But I feel very proud of the work I've done and that's how you continue on and do it again next time."
Médecins Sans Frontières relies on private donations. To donate, visit www.msf.org.au