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From Phuket to Banda Aceh - Major Debs Blythen

6 January 2005

From Phuket to Banda Aceh - Army Nurse Major Debs Blythen

Army Nurse, Major Debs Blythen treats refugees on board an RNZAF C-130 Hercules

From Phuket to the devastated Indonesian region of Banda Aceh, nothing could have prepared Major Debs Blythen for what she's seen over the past week.

Born in Hamilton, the Army Nurse found herself in Phuket on New Years Eve, searching hospitals for injured New Zealanders.

"It was a long slow process, people had been moved from hospital to hospital and just because of the share volume of people - it was hard to fit the pieces together."

But in among the thousands injured Debs managed to find some Kiwis.

"It was remarkable to hear first hand how they got away from the waves and how it's affected them."

In the heat of Thailand Debs also checked endless lists of names, and boards covered in photos of the missing.

"It was really sobering to put faces to the disasters. You just kept on seeing pictures of honeymooners and children, that's when I realised the magnitude."

As part of the Aero Medical Evacuation (AME) team Debs, who is normally based at RNZAF Base Ohakea was deployed from Phuket to Jakarta.

As a flight nurse Debs job now is to fly to Banda Aceh on board one of the two RNZAF Hercules operating in the region.

There she assesses local refugees flying to Jakarta.

"It's an incredible sight, long lines of people waiting to get on to the Herc, the injured being carried, the elderly, women and children and then of course the men."

Once the refugees are in the aircraft Debs treats the injured.

"We're seeing a lot of lacerations, cuts and skin wounds."

With the badly injured lying on stretchers and others sitting shoulder to shoulder on the floor of the aircraft, Debs keeps a close eye on her passengers.

"We're not doing anything astounding - we just want to help out we can."


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