Plastic Surgery Camp October 2014 (Nigeria)

Of course it was exciting to work with local doctors and operation staff, but everything went well...


Report by Cees Spronk

This time the conditions in Nigeria (Boko Haram, Ebola) were not favourable. It was impossible to go with a complete team. Neeltje and I went together as there was much work to do: the new materials for the operating rooms had to be unpacked, the operation room had to be arranged and there were many patients asking for help so people were counting on us.

The trip via Frankfurt went well: no problems at all with Immigration or Customs. In Abuja Kefas was waiting for us with the new school bus. As usual we spent the first night at the Sisters of Divine Love in Abuja. The next day we went to Mangu, where we had the entire guest-house for ourselves.

On Monday we first went to the operation rooms to make an inventory. I had asked to unpack the new materials because of the insurance, but this had not been done. Neeltje helped to unpack the boxes and I started checking the patients in the outpatient department. There were more than a hundred of them, but I remained calm and took ample time for each person. When it grew dark at six, I stopped and continued the next day.

Small children and complicated cases needing real narcosis were registered for March 2015. For these two weeks I planned about forty patients, but eventually the list contained 65 patients. On Tuesday I finished the patients’ registration and then I went to the operation room to help install the new equipment.

We faced some disappointments: the four cases with instruments had been packed so badly that they were all dented and nearly all the windows of the doors were broken. Fortunately the operation tables and the large operation lamps were okay, but three smaller lamps did not work. I took them apart and brought them home. The autoclave did not build up any pressure due to a leaking and incorrectly installed valve, which we were able to repair.

Agabus, our clever technician, got a lot done. An enormous problem with the installation was the AC dropping down to approximately 120 Volts, which practically switched off everything. A connector for the voltage stabiliser, part of the new equipment, was missing so it could not be installed. In Jos Agabus bought a few light stabilisers so we could use the machines, but they don’t run on 120 Volts, but need at least 180 Volts. Tuesday evening our preparations were so far that we could operate the next day.

Of course it was exciting to work with local doctors and operation staff, but everything went well. Dr. Michael, a young Nigerian doctor was good at administering infusions and the correct doses of anaesthetics.

For all patients I used much “jungle juice”, a strongly diluted local sedation with adrenalin, resulting in little loss of blood and light narcosis. No patients suffered and the oxygen was only necessary once.

Two young doctors were also very enthusiastic, but they had other tasks in the hospital preventing them from being in the operation room. We were constantly doing operations and after seven days we had performed 38 operations, including a number of difficult ones.

On Saturday we went to Jos, where I had a good talk with the representative of the Leprosy foundation, Lex Merlijn. On Thursday November 6 we had our traditional farewell dinner with doctors and management: a pleasant meeting underlining our mutual contacts.

After a visit to the Dutch Embassy we went back to Abuja on Friday. Later that night we flew back to Europe by Lufthansa. At the airport of Abuja our temperature was taken because of Ebola, but fortunately nothing was wrong.

All in all it was a special trip, despite all the fuss. Everyone was very pleased that we came and the patients who will have to wait until March were understanding. We won’t abandon them in March!

Oenkerk, 9 November

Cees Spronk

Plastic surgeon