Posted on 13 June, 2013

This post is by Shaun Johnston, ICU RN, PNG.

It was Friday a few weeks back, amd the day before I was to go on my well deserved 2 week holiday. My boss came to me, after an email from Russell, and said that two ICU nurses had withdrawn from the Open Heart International trip to Papua New Guinea. She went on to ask whether I would be interested in filling one of the places. I was very much looking forward to my holiday, but at the same time felt that I could not pass up such a great opportunity. I said yes and we were able to organise all the paperwork in 5 days and then before I knew it, I was on my way from Adelaide to PNG.

My thanks go to those who organized and sponsored the trip because it’s seemingly effortless execution meant that we were able to get on with that we were there to do. I must also say that I was welcomed into a wonderful team of people who, despite being an eclectic bunch, made me feel at home and made the experience all the more special to me.

The OHI program is such a great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and adults who, without our assistance, do not have access to the life saving heart surgery they need to lead a long and fulfilling life (stuff we take for granted in this country). Also, from what I observed, our efforts not only changed the lives of those that were fortunate enough to be operated on, but also enriched the lives of their families and also gave their communities hope for the future.

The positive experiences i’ve had on this trip have highlighted a means to utilise my nursing skills in a way that I had never thought about before going on this trip. The need for specialist treatment in PNG is great, but the local capacity to fulfil the need is only in its infancy. I can volunteer my time and skills, like the many others that have done. However, without the backing of sponsors, worthwhile endeavours like this one cannot be sustained and the vision of training local doctors and nursing to become independant cannot be brought to fruition.

I will finish by saying that I am a changed person after this trip and I am looking forward to the rich experiences next year has to offer.


Shaun Johnson
Clinical Nurse
Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit
Royal Adelaide Hospital

ICU nurses in PNG releived parents after successful heart surgery on their child