We are so blessed here in Orange
This is a story that will touch readers for a variety of reasons, not the least being it’s about a person and an organisation that cares greatly about others who are far less fortunate than most of us. Read the story, appreciate what’s being done and then reflect on just how blessed we are in this City to have the wonderful health facilities and services that we do.
Two weeks ago Kylie Duncan returned home from her sixth trip to Nepal working as a Theatre Nurse for the ‘Open Heart International Burn’s Surgery Project’. Along with Kylie, a team unit of 30 health professionals from around NSW, including another from Orange also made the trip over.
The ‘Open Heart International Burns Surgery Project’ (OHI) provides vital medical care to those in Nepal who would otherwise go without. Based at the Scheer Memorial Adventist Hospital in Banepa, the project provides reconstructive surgery for burns victims, particularly treatment for disabling contractures.
Burn injuries are a major problem in Nepal because many families use open fires for cooking and heating. The large number of burns have overwhelmed available health services leaving many to endure lifelong pain and disability, this is where the OHI come in.
Kylie’s first trip was in 2010, “My first year I was so blown away by the hospital, it was incredibly basic in terms of what we are taught in Australia. One of the first things that struck me was the health system, for example in Nepal if you have an injury of any kind, say you break your leg, you would go to the emergency department and tell them you have broken your leg, they are then going to invoice you for how much the theatre is going to cost, how much your stay is going to cost, they are going to give you a list of all of the things you are going to need, your medication, your bandages. You then have to hobble off, buy all of that stuff, pay at the cashier’s office and then they will let you in. So, if you don’t pay you are not getting treated. The Mission Hospital is different, everyone gets treated, it relies 100% on international donations, we pay for their treatment and their stay.”
“If someone in Australia had these burns, you’d get them seen to straight away, you’d be in a burn’s unit, you’d be getting treated. They don’t have that luxury. These are just injuries that you don’t see in Australia. Here, you can turn up to Emergency any time, any day and you are going to get treated, you are going to get a bed, you are going to get food and you are going to get all of the equipment needed.”
The annual 12-day trip, is no small feat, as well as saving and aiding in the wellbeing of the Nepalese people, the Nurses are taking time out of their own annual leave and Doctors taking complete time off, sometimes resulting in close of practice, as well as fundraising to be able to pay for patients.
“Once we are on the ground at Kathmandu we get on a bus to the hospital, there is a quadrangle full of patients and families queued up. We bring all of our equipment with us, so we bust open the trunks, get the theatre set up, have an assessment station set up and it’s all systems go,” Kylie added.
While treating burns victims is the primary goal of the project, the transfer of skills between doctors and nurses is equally valuable, they are empowering local clinicians to perform world-class corrective surgery and aftercare.
“In theatre I would have a student Nepali nurse scrubbing in with me because I wanted to teach them how to be a theatre nurse and do a surgical setup, how to keep a sterile field, how to assist the surgeon, so I’m teaching on one side and assisting on the other, it was pretty busy and of course the language barrier comes into play as well.”
“The work is confronting though it’s incredibly satisfying, we go to University to learn these things and as you get on in your career you either specialise or move away from some of the fundamental basics that you have been taught and it just really grounds you, you think this is why I got into Nursing or Surgery or Anaesthetics, you are acutely aware that you are making a tangible difference and you can see it. We were using skills and surgical techniques, that we haven’t used here since, well, a lot of the techniques we are using were out of a World War II handbook.”
“It’s also really satisfying to go back and see the staff because you are going back to the same hospital and a big part of why I love returning each year with the same team, is that you are imparting knowledge and going back you see that they are putting it into place, it’s really nice to see that.” Kylie continued, “The staff are amazing, they are just so resourceful and thinking outside the box. I was really impressed with them and their optimism and we rely heavily on them to help with the language barrier. The patients and their families are so sweet and so grateful for what we do for them. The hardest part is turning people away when we are forced to say we cannot do anything for them.”
“Over the 10 years I have been six times, I had a few years off as I had children, I’m definitely going back again next year, it’s incredibly addictive, especially because you develop a relationship with the local staff, I can’t tell you how good it was to see them again, it was so satisfying this year to turn up and see the staff and pick up where you left off, and to be able to continue their education was great, they just soak it up, they are so grateful for anything you can give them.”
“It makes my first world problems sort of pale by comparison, I come back feeling really refreshed and a bit reset in my outlook on life. Everyone who comes back says that their lives have been changed for the better and you just feel such a huge sense of gratitude, you look around and feel very grateful.”
“Compare Australia to the rest of the world and we are one of the absolute best, there are not many countries where you can walk in and get healthcare for free, so we are so incredibly lucky here. People complain about wait times and that’s something I am really familiar with in the Operating Theatres, I’m constantly amazed by this health district particularly. I came from Sydney Health District (which is a 10 kilometre radius). I think we represented Orange pretty well and speaking about our experiences to other local staff, I think we will have more Orange staff go next year. I find that Orange is a very community minded sort of place and people like to give back where they can.”
“We forget because we are so far from the rest of the world and it’s easy to think, oh me and my problems and I’m not getting this quick enough, really, we are so fortunate and trips like this really drive it home. A big thumbs up to the Orange Health Service, we have a really good thing going on here - we are really lucky.”
If this is something that you would like to get involved with or donate to please follow the link https://ohi.org.au/