Posted on 9 May, 2013

This post is by Fiona Hyde, Project Coordinator – Cambodia.

With any Operation Open Heart trip, there will always be something that tries to de-rail you no matter how organised you may be. Well this year for OOH Cambodia it is the equipment. We freighted 300kg of equipment weeks prior to our departure. And I receive an email 10 hours before we leave Australia to inform us “Cambodian customs wont release your freight for 2 months. Please bring with you medications, pacing wires etc etc………..”

Great no equipment! The 300kg of it is now “unavailable”. At 2100 on a Friday night what do you do? Phone some of the greatest operating staff in Australia and say “Help”. With 3 of us on the ground at OOH headquarters (aka “The Shed”) and 3 on the phones, we packed a make-shift emergency supply and then, with adrenaline pumping, attempted as much sleep as possible.

And then we are faced with the next hurdle. How do we get an extra 40kg on the flight without getting slugged excess. Well – just hold up the whole team to distribute the weight – and then make them run thru customs so they don’t miss the plane. Yep – just another day in the life of Operation Open Heart!

A big thank you to Pam Reid and Michael Were from Sydney Adventist Hospital, Kym Stuart from Brisbane Mater, Maree Standaloft from Westmead Kids and Sue Clubbe from North Shore Private who all gave up their Friday night activities to come to the cause.

Sue, on her first trip, recalls the eventful Friday night “I was at a restaurant when Fiona called and said ‘Freight is stuck in customs, we need to organise some emergency equipment. Can you meet me at the San?’. So I paid the bill and headed straight there. I didn’t get to pack my own bags until about 1am, and left for the airport at 7am. This adventure certainly started earlier than expected!”

I am sure you can imagine what its like to lose a bag, it has probably happened to you. Imagine you are the surgeon, now without all your surgical instruments that are delayed in customs. When faced with this issue, how does Dr. Ian Nicholson react?

Ian: “So you are telling me that our equipment is held up in customs”
Fiona: “Yes”
Ian: “And we have an emergency supply of a few things, and the Cambodian Hospital has a few other bits and pieces”
Fiona: “Yes, not exactly sure what they have, we’ll see what we’re missing when we arrive”
Ian: “So that seems ok. Does anyone want a coffee?”

Not many surgeons would be that relaxed. But Ian has been on nearly 30 OOH trips in since 1994. And with that experience are many lessons that have been learnt. The first is to expect the unexpected – and then adapt. And we are hard pressed to find somebody so confident when faced with adversity.

Yep – just another day in the life of Operation Open Heart! True Aussie Spirit!

(Left – Sue learning to roll with the challenges! Right – Dr Nicholson looking relaxed in Fiji during 2012. Hopefully he will still be like this later on in the week!)

Cambodia Sue on arriving without the freight Cambodia calm Dr Nicholson

Tags:  Cambodia,