Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Mark Travelled 3,000 Miles to a War Zone with His Wife ...and Ended Up Treating a Soldier from His Home Town

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Mark Travelled 3,000 Miles to a War Zone with His Wife ...and Ended Up Treating a Soldier from His Home Town

Article excerpt

Byline: By MIKE BLACKBURN

MARRIED life may not always be a bed of roses - but does it get much tougher than spending three months together in a war zone?

For Ingle by Barwick husband and wife Mark and Vivien Saunders, that was the challenge as they were shipped out to Afghanistan with 201 Territorial Army Field Hospital.

In civilian life, the couple are both medics at the University Hospital of North Tees - Mark, 43, is an operating nurse and Viv, 32, a physio.

But once in uniform in Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan's dangerous Helmand Province, their skills became vital in tending to coalition and Afghan soldiers, civilians and even Taliban casualties.

Their tour of duty, from October until last month, coincided with a period of fierce fighting and heavy casualties in the war-torn region.

Major Mark Saunders, as he is ranked in the TA, was officer in charge of two operating theatres, where his first job was to assess injuries.

"They were mainly mine blast injuries or gunshot wounds," he said.

Mark, who has been in the TA for 14 years and has also served in Iraq, would either help the surgeons or operate on casualties himself.

"It was so different from my day job, there was no hierarchy. We were just there to help the guys."

Although a tented facility, the field hospital at Camp Bastion boasts much of the modern equipment found in an NHS hospital.

"There was absolutely no problems with medical equipment - the Army is better than the NHS," smiled Mark.

"And the soldiers are very grateful to have medical teams like us out there."

One particular squaddie, who came in for an operation with a shrapnel wound, Mark remembers very well.

"He was from Ingleby Barwick. It was amazing, talking about the pubs we go in back home, and there we both were, 3,000 miles away in the middle of a conflict!"

Viv, a TA Captain whose role was to help recovering patients on the wards with physiotherapy, said their unit was warmly welcomed by soldiers from across Teesside and the North-east. …

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