Posted on 30 July, 2013

Our theatre nurses

We have two cardiac surgeons and four scrub nurses with us on this trip. Graham and Sylvio are our surgeons, ably supported by the two Jens, Lauren and theatre team leader Kimmy.

During surgery with Noah and GrahamTwo operating theatres are running side-by-side. One is Sylvio’s theatre, ‘the Kangaroos’ and the other is the ‘Kumuls’ theatre. A Kumul is the national bird – one of the birds of paradise in PNG. The Kumul theatre is the teaching theatre, where Graham will teach the local surgeons Lester and Noah about surgical techniques. This gives the local surgeons a chance to do their own procedures under supervision. They generally get through two cases a day. The Kangaroo theatre is for Sylvio to power through three to four open-heart procedures a day.

This set-up allows us to teach and train (long term goals), but also achieve a higher number of surgical cases on the trip (short term goals).

Jen E working during surgeryThe theatre staff is arguably the hardest working team on the trip. They power through from 7am to 7 or 8pm. If they should finish their scheduled surgeries earlier than expected they see it as an opportunity to work their way through the standby list.

The local theatre staff are incredibly dedicated. Sister Eunice who is the nurse in charge of the theatres is one of the most diligent people I have ever met. She has redefined the meaning of strong work ethic. She has been living at the theatres for the team’s entire trip here, only leaving the hospital to get the staff ‘Big Rooster’ (takeaway similar to our Red Rooster).

It is an incredible experience to be inside the operating theatre. Not only is the team doing something so awe-inspiring to save a person’s life, but also the team dynamics in the room are astonishing. Every person in the room plays a very important part, there is no hierarchy; everyone relies on each other to get the patient through. The nurses will anticipate the surgeons next move, the perfusionists take charge of the patient’s basic life support, the anaesthetists manage the patient’s blood levels, pressures and pharmacology and finally the surgeon does intricate mechanics of the surgery.

The local surgeons Lister and Noah with Graham and Sylvio