Posted on 10 September, 2019

Thursday 19th September 2019

To see the dramatic change in the children this week is nothing short of incredible. The volunteer Doctors and Nurses see these surgeries on a daily basis back home in Australia, yet the resilience and dramatic ‘bounce back’ of these children always seems to have an element of surprise.

It is pretty special when the patients come back to the operating theatre and ICU to say ‘hi’ and show them how they are recovering post-surgery. More often than not, the next of kin are not too far behind them carry plates of food to show their appreciation to the team for the life-changing surgery. We often joke about how it is a challenge to go home lighter than we came, as one of the many ways Tongan show their love and appreciation is by food – and boy can they cook!

Over and over again you hear comments and conversations in the tearoom around the incredible experience the volunteers have had. The patients may go home with a healthier heart, but the same could be said for our volunteers, the lasting impressions that the patients, local staff and community have left on our hearts is just as permanent.

Monday 16th September 2019

Today is day three of paediatric surgery. This week approximately 20 paediatric cases have been scheduled for surgery, with the 8th patient currently on the table. Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles… glorious bubbles!

Our physiotherapists are in many ways the unsung heroes of our trips. People don’t often realise the importance of getting patients moving so quickly post-surgery. Not getting moving can influence a patient’s recovery process and how long they are in Hospital for. Our physiotherapists working quietly and tirelessly in the background to ensure patients are a full bill of health before returning home.

Friday 13th September 2019

Tonga is known as the ‘friendly islands’. You don’t fully appreciate nor understand this until you get the full ‘Tongan experience’ of hospitality. To say they go above and beyond for our team is an understatement.

The week has been the constant organised chaos, yet the team has worked seamlessly together amongst fly-ins and fly-outs, missing stock etc, to make things work.

Earlier this week, saw the first Coronary Artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery ever performed in Tonga. For many outside the medical community the moment may be lost, however for the Tonga clinicians and our team it is moment for the history books. Those that make it happen quietly celebrating the achievement together in the tearoom. It’s a true look into the window of humility.Last night, Dr Bruce French’s performed his last surgery in Tonga. He has been a major part of the previous six project visits to Tonga. His decision to retire from visiting Tonga, is the only hole he’ll leave in the hearts of everyone here.

This week will see 13 adult patients receive life changing surgery, with a cohort of paediatric patients to follow next week.

Thursday 12th September 2019

Tuesday 10th September 2019

Logistically, getting 50 volunteers to one location for one great cause is no small feat! But we are here, ready and raring to go! 13 adult patients are scheduled this week for cardiac surgery, before paediatric surgery begins next week (screening begins today).

Although this week is a happy week with a lot of patients receiving life changing surgery and plenty of local education. There is a touch of sadness as we farewell our cardiologist Dr Garry Warner who has been serving Tonga (and other south pacific countries) for the past 15 years.Dr Garry may be retiring from Open Heart International, but his legacy, gentle presence, caring nature and love for Tonga certainly protrudes through his work and will certainly leave a lasting impression on the hearts of Tonga. But if you ask me, I think he may do a John Farnham 😉

Our first patient was just transferred to the ward with a beaming smile ear to ear. We thought it was quite fitting to start the week off with a patient by the name of Tonga. And if that wasn’t reason enough, his 50th Birthday is on Friday so the team was determined to have him home to celebrate the big 5-0!

Tags:  Cardiac, Tonga,