Somaliland: Surgery Camp at Edna Hospital

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Dr Edna (R) attends one of the surgeriesSomalilandsun – The surgery camp at Edna Hospital is in full swing. Dr. Dick Bransford and Dr. Bill Rhodes, assisted by local doctors, have been performing surgery almost nonstop since Saturday morning. By the end of the week they will have assisted over 100 patients from all over Somaliland with issues such as hydrocephalus, clubbed feet, cleft palates and burn contractures.

Dr. Bransford and Dr. Rhodes are generously donating their time and their skills to perform surgeries that that make a tremendous impact on the lives of their patients; in some instances, the procedures are literally life-saving. Hydrocephalus, commonly referred to as “water on the brain,” is a medical condition in which cerebrospinal fluid accumulates causing, among other things, a progressive enlargement of the head. The condition can be fatal in infants; those who survive typically suffer severe damage resulting in delayed development, epilepsy and other complications. These young patients are treated with the insertion of a brain shunt to relieve the pressure and drain the excess fluid.

While many of the patients who attend the surgery camp live in Hargeisa itself or within an hour’s drive of the Hospital, it is Surgery at Edna Hospitalnot uncommon for us to encounter families coming from Burco, Erigaavo and other parts of Somaliland in order to seek medical treatment that is not available in other regions. Edna opens her doors to all patients; some come from as far away as Ethiopia and Somalia. In many cases, the patients arrive with a large number of family members to provide support. All but the simplest procedures require an overnight stay in the Hospital. A club foot patient may be released the next day if all goes well. A hydrocephalus patient stays long enough for staff to ensure that there are no complications with the shunt, typically 7-10 days, while burn victims may be resident indefinitely. During these periods, the Hospital compound is filled with families huddling together, waiting for news of a successful operation, and at night the hallways are filled with mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, sleeping on mats brought from home.

The surgeries are truly a team effort. In addition to Dr. Bransford, a U.S.-based surgeon, and Dr. Rhodes, an American surgeon living in Kenya, numerous support personnel play key roles in the success of the surgery camp. A number of our locally-trained doctors have assisted on the surgeries, including our Dr. Naima and Dr. Shukri, and Dr. Deeqa from Gabiley Hospital. Laura Rhodes, Dr. Rhodes’ wife, and Ted Miyake, a volunteer from Southern California, have been providing logistical support. Hosea, Michael and Thomas, visiting anesthetists from Kenya, are all taking long shifts in the operating theaters. The anesthesia students from Edna Adan University are spending their days getting hands-on training that cannot be duplicated in the waiting to be prepared for operation-300x225classroom. Even those not directly working in the theaters are pitching in. The administrative staff, the laboratory personnel, and of course the nurses (most of whom were trained by Edna), are working tirelessly to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The nurses in particular will be providing care long after the surgeons have departed.

This is the second visit to Hargeisa of 2013 for Dr. Bransford and Dr. Rhodes. Their first visit in February was equally successful. Four more surgery camps are scheduled for this year alone: June, August, September and November. These visits are invaluable not only for the relief that is provided to the patients, but also for the opportunity it provides our young medical staff to learn how to diagnose and treat these unfortunate conditions. While we love Dr. Bransford and Dr. Rhodes (and all our other international volunteers who make these camps possible), we look forward to the day when we have the capacity to handle these surgeries with locally-trained staff

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