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Gaza: Screening Day

18 Aug 2016

Médecins Sans Frontières Australian anaesthetist Paul Chan is in Gaza for his first field assignment. 

Sunday is screening day which means the team review patients to be considered for surgery. Around 70 patients were seen by the surgical team, and anaesthesia team reviewed around half of them who may have been problematic under an anaesthetic. We had a brief team introduction for us new international arrivals and then the starter’s gun went off.

There are a whole range of problems we are treating. The majority are young children between one and five years old. As our surgeon is a hand specialist we are addressing a lot of hand and foot surgeries. In addition to this we also have had shrapnel injuries, follow up trauma cases and oil, fire, electrical and scald burns that were several years old. Most were patients medically well but of the more complicated cases, there was one patient who has a blood disorder, another with a challenging airway to manage and one with a new heart murmur. 

Thank heavens for Ouda. This man is 6 foot tall and a gentle giant. He was telling me about supplementing wrist blocks with subcutaneous injections for musculocutaneous nerve blocks to take care of tourniquet pain. Yeah, like that. He appeased an irate father, and got balloons to make fart noises to distract kids so I could examine them. He also basically took all the histories, most of the observations and did all the consent. All of which made my work much easier.

"[Ouda] appeased an irate father, and got balloons to make fart noises to distract kids so I could examine them" 

Ouda is pictured here

Ouda is very patient. I’ve got a piece of paper with my phrase list in Arabic thanks to him. I have the words for “take a breath” and “open your mouth” for pre-operation assessments. I have the one for “open your eyes” and “I need a trolley” for surgical days. And I have “thank you” and “not at all.” He approved of my memory making technique.

In between consults we had tea, lunch and talked about the burns public awareness campaign in Gaza and learned about the prayer times and the electricity cuts in the city. Of my four week assignment, already week one is planned so we as a team can get used to the operating room with less intense procedures. Weeks two and three hot up and then things taper down in week four. 


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