Transformation: Safe Anesthesia

11 April 2015

Anesthesia [an-uh s-thee-zhuh] n. --General or local insensibility, as to pain and other sensation, induced by certain interventions or drugs to permit the performance of surgery or other painful procedures.

I don't think anyone would disagree that anesthesia is pretty important in surgery.  Yes, they put the patient to 'sleep' so they don't feel the pain of surgery, but they do much more than that. While the surgeon is focused on fixing the problem; removing the tumor, repairing the defect, or releasing the contracted skin, the anesthetist is keeping them alive  - making sure the patient keeps breathing and the heart keeps beating and the blood keeps flowing, adding more when necessary.  They also handle critical events during the surgery - if suddenly the blood pressure drops, or the patient has an allergic reaction to something they were given, or various other life-threatening situations, along with the important job of making sure the patient wakes up!  (medical friends, please forgive the simplistic description!)

But what if you were an anesthetist who knew you had to handle some of these critical events, but didn't have the skills or materials to do so?  What if you knew you would be okay if you had an adult patient, but a child appeared on your operating table?  Anesthesia is consistently one of the top requests for training in the countries I have served with Mercy Ships, and continuing anesthesia training is often unavailable in these areas.  So we have partnered with the Association of Anesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland to offer two SAFE Anesthesia courses - SAFE stands for Safer Anesthesia From Education - and we offer SAFE Obstetric Anesthesia and SAFE Pediatric Anesthesia.

SAFE Obstetric Anesthesia was held in Antananarivo back in December, and I meant to write about it then but never did! We taught basic anesthesia skills and critical care for pregnant women and newborns.  The participants were so excited to have the opportunity to learn new skills and refresh their abilities using our teaching materials and manikins, and we received great feedback on the course.  We will be inviting some of those participants back this week for some supplementary training and to see if they have been able to apply what we taught back in December!

SAFE Pediatric Anesthesia is this next week so I find myself now back in Antananarivo, excited to welcome the facilitators for this course who are coming in from the US, Canada, England, and Kenya!  It's such a privilege to come alongside the anesthesia providers of Madagascar, offering them hands-on workshop teaching where they can practice what they are learning and hopefully improve the care they are able to offer to Madagascar's littlest patients. 

Preparing for the course - a table full of anesthesia equipment!  A few years ago I wouldn't have had any idea what any of this is... now I can name almost all of it, and most of it in two languages!

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