Report by Paul Spauwen
From 2 till 17 February 2013 the eleventh free Plastic Surgery Camp was organised in Faridpur, Bangladesh. By EMIRATES we reached Dubai where the plastic-anaesthesiological group from Leeuwarden met the group of ophthalmologists from Vienna to form two parallel projects supervised by the Faridpur Welfare Foundation, as Shamim Haque intended. The Leeuwarder group consisted of Cees Spronk, plastic surgeon, Chantal Moues, plastic surgeon, Rob Niemeijer, anaesthesiologist, Geke Hoeksma, assistant anaesthetist and Neeltje Spronk (Holland Children House). The Vienna group consisted of Alex Salomon, ophthalmologist, Ingrid Kraupp, ophthalmologist, Paul Spauwen, plastic surgeon and Elisabeth Micka, chairman of the Vienna Eye Care Partners (www.vecp.org) and the new member of the group: Johanna de Vries, leader of the project from ‘Doctors of the World’ whose aim it is to observe the operational process and to suggest improvements (www.doktersvandewereld.org).
After arrival in Dhaka we travelled by luxurious bus to Faridpur. Then all of us went by boat across the river Padma. A mass of people on land and on the boat, but also a beautiful view over the hazy water. We had a surprisingly nice reception at the beautiful guesthouse, where we had been accommodated before: a reasonable chance to have hot water, decent meals and enjoyable moments on the veranda, where we were given the safari-jackets of ‘Doctors of the World’. They had an undefined colour with a flashy blue emblem which made us feel sturdy.
The next day: selection of the patients: always exiting as you decide who will be operated upon. People are eager to be treated. But first amidst the patients a cordial welcome by sisters with smelling flowers, the Civil Surgeon and local colleagues who we partly knew. Professor A.C. Paul, who has worked for the projects for years, found three Senior Surgeons for training and 25 (!) Junior doctors, who will be in the operation rooms taking turns. It is clear that they eventually want to be Certificated.
Then the days with operations begin. Cees brought a small, portable device for anaesthesia and an oxygen concentrator, both financed by the Faridpur foundation. Rob is pleased with them and shows their possibilities and reliability. We are also positive about the improved logistics of the patients (X-rays) and particularly about the recovery room next to the operation theatres which has a monitor and a dedicated nurse to watch over the patients.
191 operations were performed: 64 patients with schisms, 65 corrections of burns contractures and 62 other operations without any complications (see table below). Striking is the number of 103 operations on children younger than ten, for which we compliment Rob and Geke. Chantal had to work much: a prelude for the future where the young will have to take over from those a bit older.
Our colleagues, the ophthalmologists could also be satisfied: 186 patients were able to see again (112 ECCEs; 74 treatments with the phaco-machine). Two patients had more severe problems so the operation did not have the desired result.
Besides operating, we also engaged in social activities: on Fridays, our day off, we went for a boat trip on the Padma, bought fresh fish, which we prepared the next day in the guesthouse. We also visited the new rooms for boys in the Holland Children House, which celebrated its sixth anniversary with a beautiful dance by the girls. We were given orange mugs with a text. Meanwhile we sneaked out to make a walk in the serene surroundings to experience the scents and colours of the Bangladesh life which is totally different from the tangible political tensions in town: the choruses, a doll with a noose representing a condemned general who was involved in the murders of 1971 and speeches on every street corner.
Then the scientific meeting, which has become a respected meeting with the local colleagues. Chantal delivered a sparkling speech on special wounds, Ingrid about the fact that an operation is not always the best remedy if people do not see well, Johanna about how Doctors of the World work and Paul about plastic surgery from a historical perspective. An excellent meeting, ending in the traditional ‘Raffle Draw’, a decoy for the scientific meeting.
New was a visit to the Chamber of Commerce, Shamim´s friends, with its traditional pattern: a word of welcome, the introduction of all the members with name and function, followed by dinner consisting of rice with chicken bones, lamb with bone chips and ‘dal’: lentil purée to make everything fit for manual transport from plate to mouth. After that the club leaves immediately, leaving the guests behind in wonder.
Finally: the Closing Ceremony in the presence of Minister Hossain (Welfare and Overseas Employment), an open man who really cares for his people. Because of him there is an Intensive Care at the Medical Faculty. Hopefully this visit will result in financing the inventory.
Tired but satisfied we go home, after a visit to the Gulshan Market in Dhaka, a paradise for buying pearls for yourself or the next Christmas Fair. That evening we fly back by EMIRATES, first to Dubai, where Leeuwarden and Vienna go separate ways looking back on a successful project in which everybody worked very hard.
Paul H.M. Spauwen