A British Army surgeon has told of using his skills as a new father to settle a baby passed over barbed wire at Kabul airport, as an “unexpectedly high number” of children are being handed over to troops.
Footage of the newborn girl being handed over the wall to US Marines at Hamad Karzai International Airport went viral as civilians scrambled to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban swept into power.
Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Caesar, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon from 16 Medical Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps, has been working in a hospital set up for injured personnel and Afghans going through the evacuation process in the capital.
The Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) hospital is also providing urgent care for coalition forces and entitled personnel – and has cared for children separated from their parents.
Lt Col Caesar said there has been an “unexpectedly high number of children passed to us and being dealt with by the hospital”.
He told of how he helped look after the baby after she struggled to settle while being fed by a colleague.
Having a child of a similar age, he instinctively nursed the child in his arms and she drifted off to sleep.
He said: “As a recent father of a 14 month old I have a little bit more experience dealing with small children.
“We took her for a walk around the hospital, managed to burp her a few times, she seemed to settle, she then sat with me.”
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The baby and around 10 others separated from their parents continued to be cared for on rotation between the British, Norwegians and American medical professionals working at the hospital.
Every effort was made to unite the children with their parents – and the baby girl was reunited with her mother, who are both now safely home.
Lt Col Caesar has been treating a vast range of injuries from gunshot wounds and flashbang injuries, to people who have been crushed in the crowd and others that have run out of medication.
But he said it is the right place for the British Army to be right now – supporting the people of Afghanistan through an “extremely difficult time.”
Success for the troops helping in Afghanistan would mean “no coalition forces significantly injured or left behind, no injured UK service personnel, and as many Afghan nationals who wish to leave being brought to safety”, he said.
Lt Col Caesar added that he never knew what was going to come through the door and had to “be prepared for every eventuality” and was at one point “very concerned” that the hospital would be overwhelmed with large numbers of casualties.