Calgary nurse making a difference in Africa (March 7, 2013)

Written by Jenna McMurray

Published by Calgary Sun on Thursday, March 7, 2013

Karen Daniels is making a difference and she’s doing it under the toughest of circumstances.

The Cranbrook B.C. native and registered nurse has been travelling to Sudan and South Sudan, staying as long as nine months at a time on several missions over the last decade.

“I’ve fallen in love with the country and the people,” said Daniels, in Calgary Wednesday to check in at the headquarters of Samaritan’s Purse Canada, the organization she’s been working for in Africa.

“They inspire me to give and invest and make a difference in their communities.”

Daniels’ work ranges from running nutrition programs in refugee camps, where kids are “skin and bones,” to organizing cleft lip surgery programs to tackling emergency C-sections and treating disease and trauma in bush hospitals.

“You’re everything, you’re even the blood bank,” said Daniels.

“Sometimes I’ve had to scrub out to give blood because there was no blood.”

Daniels has even had to help perform operations with no power and no soap.

One situation, in which she was assisting a doctor to treat a man who’d been shot in the abdomen and was nearly written off for dead, stands out in her mind.

“We did the operation without sterile equipment, we had no operating table, no soap, no power and he lived,” she said.

“It’s very rewarding.

“There are babies and moms that are alive because we’ve been able to do C-sections in the middle of a refugee camp by flashlight.”

During her time there, Daniels has experienced civil war — having survived a bombing just two kilometres away — and eventually the independence of South Sudan, which she said has been a remarkable and inspiring thing to watch, despite the fact there continues to be political unrest.

“It’s becoming its own nation, infrastructure is being built,” she said, adding she’s grateful for the time, efforts and money given to Samaritan’s Purse so work like hers can go on.

“We’re very aware people have donated to our cause and we don’t take that lightly.”

Daniels, who returned from her last stint in Africa in December, heads back in two weeks.