When there is an emergency referral to the hospital, it always involves many people and often results in life-saving surgery. As the logistician, I normally send a car to collect the patient and then go back to my dinner. Last week, I was invited to observe one of these emergency surgeries and got to see firsthand the medical side of one such emergency.
Although our expat doctor is also a surgeon, it is sometimes easy to forget. Most of the time, he is just Dr. Auguste... a bit of a character, always smiling and a good friend and fellow teammate. On Friday night, I saw a different side of him. Not so much joking as he entered the operating room and emerged 3 hours later after extracting a still-born baby, removing a ruptured uterus and saving the life of the mother.
It’s very technical
This was the first time I had seen anything remotely like this and I was suitably impressed. He really is a surgeon and I think I’ll definitely stick to logistics!
I had always wondered why we had so many different types of forceps and now I know. Makes the stock counts seem a bit more meaningful.
The batteries ran dead on the heart rate monitor so they just turned it off and went to get new ones. No problem. NO PROBLEM!?
A uterus is much bigger than I had imagined and it amazes me that you can simply remove this organ, sew everything back up and the body just adapts. Wow.
Halfway through, the generator ran out of fuel and suddenly everything went dark. This happened right in the middle of some pretty intense cutting. Someone fumbled around a bit, found a backup light and passed it to me...and the operation continued. A few minutes later, the generator roared back to life and everything resumed, just as though this was completely normal.
“I mean honestly, does that happen often?” I had to ask.
“No, no” Dr. August responded. “...but normally they at least give us a bit of warning. It must have caught them (the guards) a bit by surprise this time.”
Sheesh! I honestly never knew. By the end of the 3 hours, Dr. Auguste’s entire upper half was soaked with sweat, we had gone through 5 packages of sutures and, among other things, I had been shown the correct way to check and clean the intestines. I was exhausted and I didn’t even do anything so I can imagine how Auguste was feeling.
The good news?
The operation was a success and she is still alive. She’s already had 2 children and while that isn’t many here in the bush it is something.
The tragedy was that she came so late to the hospital and her child – at full term – was already dead when she showed up. If she would have only come sooner, we would have had a much better chance to save that life as well.
Ok... by “we” I mean Dr. Auguste. Respect. I have deep and utter respect for Dr. Auguste and those that are doing what he does. It is experiences like these that remind me just exactly what we are doing as a project and as an organization. This is what truly serves to justify our presence here and everywhere we work. We are a medical organization and we do save lives and alleviate suffering, as per the MSF mandate, each and every day.