A wounded British doctor’s fate hangs in the balance as he undergoes surgery for an infected gunshot injury at an evacuation airfield in Sudan.
The doctor, who recently retired after working in the NHS for over 30 years, is having an operation under local anaesthetic to prevent the risk of developing sepsis.
If his infection develops into the potentially deadly condition, he would not be able to fly home on what could be the final evacuation flights back to the UK as the 72-hour ceasefire deadline enters its final hours.
The UK government has so far rescued more than 500 British citizens from the war-torn country and the race is on to bring an estimated 3,500 who remain stranded before fighting resumes.
Foreign secretary James Cleverly warned on Thursday that it could be “impossible” to continue evacuation flights once the ceasefire has ended and admitted some people could be left behind.
The retired doctor was visiting his family in Khartoum for Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr when fierce clashes between forces loyal to the country’s two top generals erupted in the city on 15 April.
He was shot in the leg as he “risked his life” moving his daughter and 87-year-old mother, who requires constant care, to a safer place in the city.
It has been too risky for any family to get to a pharmacy or a hospital, so his daughter has been forced to treat his wound at home using leftover antibiotics.
On Thursday, the family made the perilous journey to the Wadi Saeedna airfield where evacuation flights are leaving. They had not gone sooner as they had been waiting to find out if the retired doctor’s mother, who is Sudanese and does not have permission to come to the UK, had had her application for a temporary visa accepted. They are still waiting for an answer.
His second daughter – a British doctor based in London, who is calling herself Dr A in order to protect her family in Sudan – said her father’s condition was worsening: “It looks like he’s got an abscess and developed an infection. I understand they’ll make an incision to drain the pus. If the pus is not removed, there is a risk of this spilling over into his blood and causing sepsis.”
Dr A – who is a British-Sudanese dual national like her father and sister – told The Independent on Wednesday that they feared his wound would get worse and warned “if he gets sepsis then he’s in big trouble”.
Fortunately, the family made it to the airbase in time for him to get the vital treatment he needed. “If my dad hadn’t gone today, he definitely would have started to feel unwell over the 48 hours and it’s possible he would be a lot worse,” Dr A said.
But she is still anxiously waiting to hear about the outcome of her father’s operation. Meanwhile, her grandmother’s fate remains unknown, and she is concerned she could be left alone in the country if she’s not granted a visa. “I’m not sure about my grandmother – the decision lies with the people at the borders,” she said.
Before his condition deteriorated, Dr A’s father was adamant he would not leave his mother. “The UK cannot expect him to evacuate, leaving his 87-year-old mother on her own in the middle of war in Khartoum. The house is located close to the fighting at the airport. It is inhuman. This is not acceptable,” his daughter said.
The Foreign Office has said it is only evacuating British passport holders and either their partners, children, or parents if the British passport holder is under 18. That means Dr A’s grandmother is not eligible.
The Independent has approached the British Foreign Office for further comment.