Clare expat Sophie Dohnt has been awarded the Minister for Health and Wellbeing Humanitarian Award at the 2020/21 SA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards, announced in Adelaide this month.
Sophie, an intensive care nurse now working at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, is the daughter of Clare residents Paul Dohnt and Mary McInerney and an old scholar of Clare High School.
The award recognises nurses and midwives who give back to their local or global community, are inspirational, selfless, caring and compassionate in what they do.
Having always had a strong interest in humanitarian work and drawn to Africa, Sophie first volunteered as a 21-year-old in Tanzania.
“When I was living and working in the UK in 2016 I was looking to go back to Africa,” Sophie shared.
“I was lucky enough to work with a nurse who had volunteered with ‘Facing Africa’ before.”
For two months in both 2017 and 2019, Sophie volunteered for ‘Facing Africa’ in Ethiopia as a wound care nurse for reconstructive surgery on Ethiopians suffering from Noma.
“The reason I go to Ethiopia is that people living in severe poverty suffer a disease called Noma, which is a flesh-eating disease that causes death or severe facial defects in survivors, it has a 90 per cent mortality rate,” Sophie explained.
“The disease is caused by lack of food and severe poverty.
“These people suffer severely with pain, drooling, eating difficulties and are often rejected by families and communities.
“The charity I volunteer for dedicates its time to perform complex reconstructive surgery on these people.”
‘Facing Africa’ currently send teams of highly skilled and experienced volunteer teams made up of four surgeons (plastic, maxillo-facial and cranio-facial), three anaesthetists, an anaesthetic assistant, three operating room nurses, three ward nurses, a doctor and two wound care nurses to Ethiopia for two weeks and generally carries out 35–45 facial reconstructions.
“My ICU training helps me so much in the position of wound care nurse,” Sophie added.
“Saving up my annual leave, I look forward to going back again as soon as possible and meeting the new patients.
“While it is tricky to stay in contact with the patients themselves, Facing Africa CEO keeps the volunteers in the loop on a weekly basis.”
Sophie wanted to draw attention to the fact that we are incredibly privileged to live in Australia with everything we have and our amazing health care system.
“Working in Ethiopia impacts my nursing in Australia every day.
“Just seeing a sign of strength in humans allows me to find strength in my nursing.
“I want to inspire others around me with stories about the patients I have looked after.
“As long as I can keep going, I will.”