A STUDENT nurse is on a life-saving mission to improve medical care in rural East Africa.
Rachael Washington, a second-year paediatric nursing trainee at Northumbria University, has recently returned from working in a hospital in Tanzania. The 22-year-old, from Hexham, volunteered her skills to help out in Iringa Regional Hospital, a deprived area nine hours from civilisation.
Now Rachael, a former Queen Elizabeth High School student, says she found the experience so different from her previous placements in Newcastle’s RVI and Freeman hospitals that she wants to help make a difference.
“Because a lot of the women have been malnourished, there is a lot of birth trauma,” said Rachael, who lives with her dad Colin and brother Nathan, 17.
“So many people die there from not having the equipment they need. They run out of drugs all the time.
“There’s a drug called Oxytocin that mothers here will get after they’ve given birth, but there were multiple times when they ran out of this drug and all they could do was rub the mother’s stomach and say ‘God is with you’.
“They don’t have an ultrasound and a lot of mothers and babies die within labour. We saw some really harrowing instances of that happening.
“Caesareans are so prevalent because so many people have HIV. It’s often the safest option.”
The part-time lifeguard also spent time on the children’s ward and at Tosamaganga Orphanage.
“It was completely different,” she said. “The ward only had three nurses, but during epidemics they could have hundreds of children on the ward.
“The children were three or four to a rusty old bed and the sheets were filthy.
“They couldn’t change them between patients because they had no spares. Determined to help the situation, Rachael, along with fellow Gap Medic students Lottie Reeves and Anna Clappison, raised £2,000 to buy essential equipment.
Now Rachael and Lottie, 21, have launched a charity campaign called “#ProjectIringa” to raise a further £10,000 to £15,000 to buy life-saving medical supplies for the people of Iringa.
Working with Web Aid International, they hope to ship a 20ft crate full of vital medical equipment to Tanzania.
Their first fundraiser will be a 12-hour swim marathon at Wentworth Leisure Centre, in Hexham.
Swimming in a relay style, Lottie and Rachael will do laps continuously from 6am until 6pm on Sunday, February 17.
They are also are planning a 13 000ft skydive over North London on February 24, as well as a charity dinner.
To support #ProjectIringa, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/ProjectIringa