Posted on 16 September, 2015

A project visit like this can sometimes get pretty interesting when things are not exactly going to plan. Back home in Australia there seems like a wealth of options to get the job done. In Tonga, with not quite so many options, you need to think quick.

Finding a solution seems to involve a number of people and falls into two categories – compromise, or think creatively. Sometimes compromise (using what you have available) is the answer, but more often that not it falls into the creative thinking space.

This is Bruce Treagus, one of our fabulous perfusionists. A perfusionist is one of your best friends if you are ever in need of cardiac surgery, as they maintain the controls of the heart-lung and other associated machines while your heart is stopped and being worked on by the surgeon.


Along with being a fantastic perfusionist, he is also a bit of a fixing guru. He has had many many challenges this week with the heater-cooler failing a number of times, amongst other hiccups along the way. It amazes me how he comes up with some solution and just “makes” things to fix the devices. I found out that he pulled a fan apart for parts to get the heater-cooler running again. In a highly stressful environment at times where lives are at risk, its problem solving skills of our incredibly professional and quick thinking volunteers that never cease to surprise me.

Along with the heater-cooler incident, yesterday we had a problem of a different kind. An operation scheduled for Friday involves the need of a pacemaker. No problem if you’re in Australia. Big problem when you’re in Tonga with no pacemakers!

After a few SOS calls the plan was hatched. Our good friends at Air New Zealand’s office here in Tonga put us in contact with a colleague returning to Tonga from Sydney who was happy to carry the pacemaker with her. All we needed was for the King of the logistical challenge (nice plug for my boss?!) and OHI’s manager, Michael Were to acquire the right equipment in under five hours and get it to the airport. A few phone calls to a supportive medical supply company, and a few traffic jams later, Michael handed the equipment over at Sydney airport with minutes to spare!


We pride ourselves on thinking outside the square, and with a team of creative thinkers every problem seems to have a solution. It is what keeps the “show on the road” when things all seem a bit too difficult.

Our 27th patient for this visit is currently being operated on. The end of the surgery list is in sight….


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