Posted on 12 June, 2013

This post is by Helen Carter, Ward RN, PNG.

The sensory massage of a fragrant and cooling tropical breeze is one of pure joy. There is no air-conditioning in the hospital except for the brand new 3-bed Cardiac Treatment Unit; ironically, working out how to set the temperature correctly has seen us variously roasting or shivering for the first couple of days. There’s also no hot water but we don’t really need it anyway. There seems to be an air of welcoming for our team – the staff greet us like old friends (which is, in fact, what many of them have become), the betelnut juice has been cleaned from the walls and floors in our area, and everything is neat and clean. It’s great to be back.

By the time the post-op children get to the ward they are fairly stable medically, but seem to be pretty cranky for a couple of days. After they manage to sit up, eat and drink a bit, pee, and get up for a walk a few times with physio Kylie, their perspective changes completely: they start looking at the other post-op kids playing balloon soccer in the corridor, walking around shepherded by their delighted, exhausted parents. They begin to open up to us, to laugh, to feel their newfound energy. It’s an extraordinary transformation and it happens on the post-op ward.

We are blessed to be assisted by a fabulous team of PNG nurses (OK not all fabulous; there are those that seem to disappear for hours on end, especially on night duty, and require constant supervision and checking). But by and large, these women – they are mostly female – are not only accepting of our intrusive arrival, but have actually taken the torch and run with the spirit of OHI. On post-op ward more than any other area we rely on the local staff to take charge of patient care. We are there to help, that’s all. Given the educational process and time invested in reaching this stage it fills us with humility and pride to witness what the local ward staff are now accomplishing as a matter of course.

Open Heart International nurses in PNG

Fun on the childrens ward in PNG PNG cardiac patient with his dad