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January 10, 2013 / catherinebwrites



Sister Ides prepares

“If you’d like to watch me operating,” said Kieran (O’ Driscoll, ENT surgeon) “you’re more than welcome.

I shivered with horror at the thought.

“No thanks.” I said  “Not for me.”  

There’s a good reason I’m not a doctor or a nurse.   I’m far too squeamish. The thought of blood and guts and slimy, slithery insides make me feel faint. That was the first time I travelled with ENT Zambia.  But last this trip I thought to myself, when will I  have another  chance to observe a surgeon at work?  So I girded my loins, stiffened my resolve, took several deep breaths and asked if I could observe.  My greatest fear was that I’d faint or throw up.

“If you’re going to faint.” Kieran grinned, ” faint AWAY from the operating table,”

“And the same goes for throwing up.” grinned Willie (Fearon, Anaesthetist).

 Clearly neither of them were concerned about me and my fears. I put on scrubs and went into the theatre.

I’m not a great one for watching T.V. Hospital Dramas but I do know that the scenes in the operating theatre are always dramatic.  Porters dash down hospital corridors with patients on stretchers. Nurses have seconds to administer life-saving injections.   Surgeons bark orders and all operations are a matter of life and death.  

Well it wasn’t like that in Beit Cure. It was reassuringly calm.

Willie gets to work

Willie gets to work

I kept out of the way and watched Willie set up, checking  and rechecking the anaesthetic drugs and equipment .   Sister Ides checked the surgical instruments. Kieran consulted with the team and checked patient charts.  I twiddled my thumbs.

Then Fred and Benjamin ( hospital porters in Beit Cure) brought in the first patient. A young man with an infected sinus tract.   It was complicated by a compound fracture of the nasal bone.  Willie adminstered the anaesthetic and Kieran got to work. He had to drill through bone to remove a growth and he had to  be certain that he took removed all the infected parts.   To my own surprise I did not feel faint or ill, I found it facinating – although I did have to hold on to the bridge of my own nose as I watched.  


A child about to have grommets inserted

After that came a three year old girl who needed to have grommets in her ears and her tonsils removed.  These are the two most frequent operations carried out in every operating theatre and they would have been finished in minutes except for the fact that this particular child had the tiniest ears which made inserting the grommets fiddly.   Her tiny throat also caused problems  because you need space not just to remove the tonsils but also for the tube which brings oxygen to her lungs.  And if that wasn’t difficult enough, in the middle of the operation the electricity went off.

Kieran at work

Kieran at work

I found myself hyper-ventilating, convinced that something tragic was going to happen but Willie and Kieran stayed perfectly calm.   Electricity failure happens in Zambia all of the time.   They’d seen it before.  They knew what to do.  The hospital generator kicked in a few moments later and I was able to breathe normally again.

The work went on, nasal polyps, glue ears, foreign bodies, more tonsils, more grommets.  It sounds like a strange thing to say but, I found watching Kieran, Willie and the team at work incredibly moving.  They treated each patient with such tenderness and care, as though each person  was their own beloved child. I had to mop up my tears in order to be able to watch the procedures.

I just hope and pray that if ever I, or anyone I love, needs surgery that we will be fortunate enough to have an anaesthathist as skilled and caring as Willie Fearon and a surgeon as skilled and devoted as Kieran O’Driscoll.

Respect guys.   Respect.



CONTACT : [email protected]

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