Rwanda Day 6: The Bigger Team

Through day 6 and cases 14, 15 and 16 all done. One more day of operating and the theatre team’s work is finished.

So far the only technical casualty has been the theatres coffee machine. At the moment it is more like a hissing, spitting alley cat than the booster of tired souls it has been through the week. The biomedical engineer is being tested.

It would be easy from these posts to get an idea of the work being mostly about the surgical team. I guess it is true to say that offering heart surgery is difficult without them.

To do this sort of work there’s a much bigger team required. My only previous aid trips have been with a team of about 12 people so the 34 or so we’ve got here feels massive. There are no freeloaders though.

We work within the system here as much as possible but we also have to tread lightly. This means bringing lots of people as staff. That’s staff to keep a ward with lots of patients going 24 hours a day. Our cardiologist, who already had the tough job of selecting the shortlist of patients who might get an operation oversees the plan for ongoing care and integrates with the local doctors and staff to make a plan for each kid once we move on. He started with a question to answer.

“Which kids won’t get to school without an operation?”

That’s our job in simple terms and he’s still making sure we get the answer right.

The ICU nurses work in shifts looking after 5 patients at a time with 3 new patients every day. There are medical types helping them but the progress of the patients has a lot more to do with the nurses and the kids.

The physio is doing rounds of the patients numerous times a day to keep everybody moving and coughing, the vital post-operative dance. Our pharmacist is redoing inventories and stocks every day, while planning for the future.

You could maybe understand why sometimes you need to use a few minutes spare to catch up on rest.

Well, when you're waiting for the sleep doctors ...

Well, when you’re waiting for the sleep doctors …

Tomorrow and tomorrow …

We’ll move on though. The bigger part of the journey for the kids is shared by local health staff. The ones who found them in the first place and got them ready for our assessment team to have a look. The nurses who have worked alongside our guys and shown us just as much about how they get things done here as we’ve shown them.

There’s workers in the lab getting tests done and arranging our blood products. Half the team in the operating theatre is local and they’ll be the ones we hope take new skills to their next operation.

There will still be kids in hospital when we pack up and it will be the local health workers who finish the job we’ve started.

The Bigger Team

The thing is there’s an even bigger team than that.

There’s a small and dedicated team at Open Heart International who make arrangements happen at home. There are other volunteers who helped pack rooms of equipment to be freighted though they weren’t coming. There are huge numbers of donors, big and small, individuals and businesses, who donate money so we can come and do fun stuff.

Then there are others. There are colleagues at home who’ve made space in rosters or made leave requests happen. Then most of us have the people around us who support the stuff we do without getting much of the good bit.

To get me here we shifted a 3rd birthday celebration early. My phenomenal wife juggles work and looking after three kids at home. Extended family help with childcare and shift their own time around. That’s just my snapshot. There are 34 people here. The work here happens many places at once.

The Even Bigger Team

The other thing this reminds me of is that this is just one team doing one trip.

This year other colleagues I know have been on heart surgery trips. Some have been on plastic surgery trips. Some have been on burns care trips. Some are heading off on orthopaedic surgery trips.

Every one of those trips happens with those big teams.

All to get some more kids to school.

Every one of those trips happens with those big teams.

All to get some more kids to school.

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4 thoughts on “Rwanda Day 6: The Bigger Team

  1. But it’s educating these kids that leads to a better future for them, their community and in turn their children.
    So just as a wider sphere of people are giving to make the surgery happen, the benefits of a properly working heart, or a prosthetic limb, or whatever the case may be, effects a wider sphere of people than just the recipient on the operating table.
    You guys in the surgery, and at the hospital, are the (crucial) point where two groups meet.
    Thank you for making a difference to so many lives and sharing your experiences it with us.

  2. Pingback: What can the world give you? | Songs or Stories

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