Herewith I wish to share some of my experiences on my recent trip to Tripoli, Libya to do volunteer Peadiatric Cardiac Nursing.
It was my first trip alone into the unknown, a huge personal bucket list achievement.
I left Johannesburg on 24 August 2018 to arrive in Libya, Tripoli on Sunday morning 02h20 am, it was a long trip, but this travelling bug got hold of me.
Initially the acclimatizing was tuff, as it is a very hot country, bordering the Sahara desert on the South and the Mediterranean Sea on the North, wedged between Egypt and Tunisia and Algeria.
I had to respect local dress code for females, it was strange in the beginning, but later on it lent you some anonymity. Just very uncomfortable in 48 degrees Celsius to be covered from head to toe:-) Our hotel was amazing, nearly on the beach of the Mediterranean sea, luxury beyond compare.
There was some issues with our theatre aircon, so the first week we spent lazing around the pool, more persons of the group arriving. We consisted of about 12 people, from Cardiologists, Prof Bill Novick and Dr Vitaly Dedovich,3 intensivists,1 aneathetist,1 perfusionist, 4 Cardiac Peads Nurses, 1 Mentor nurse, 1 Scrub nurse for theatre. It was my first visit, to do volunteer work. I received so much support in getting back to cardiology, it was mind-blowing. I took to it like a fish to water. Some pics of unit layout, and patients. The group consisted of people from Serbia, Russia, USA, Australia, Macedonia and the first #SouthAfricantoLibya! I am so proud of myself for going on this trip, as it is the University of Life that teaches us more than any book can.
Due to the aircon problem, leaving a temp of 34 degrees in theatre, we did manage to do only about 5 cases after the first week. It is still my passion to nurse these patients. To get to understand the pathophysiology and the repair there off. Our Mentor, Karen Bowden, helped a lot to get me settled and test my knowledge and nursing skills to the max. We are not there to take over, we merely support and teach, nursing and academicals. It was an amazing experience to go through.
Novick Cardiac Alliance is a great group to work for, as you are seen as a person and your utmost safety is their passion. We had an international reporter, Abel Kavanaugh doing a documentary on the life of Prof Novick and it was interesting being filmed while working. The documentary is due to be released at the end of the year. I will keep you posted.
The nursing factor was more orientated towards training to nurse pediatric cases and preventing wrong nursing of the cardiac patient that is still a child. Tajoura Heart Centre is an adult cardiac hospital. The local staff rotated to work with us and learn as much as possible.
The Libyans are the most humble and friendly people, which made the following even more heartbreaking.
In week 2 an unpredicted militia war broke out. Bombing and shooting became part of our lives and all work stopped. As it was too unsafe to leave our hotel. Some days we could not even visit the outside swimming pool. A spa and indoor pool was still available. But one thing I learned is; IN WAR THERE ARE NO WINNERS, ONLY SUFFERING, MAN, CHILD AND BEAST.
On the 7th of September I decided to come home, there was a window period of cease fire, negotiated by the United Nations, and Tripoli airport was declared open. I arrived back in SA on the 9th of September 2018, more wise in the way of the world that I could ever have dreamed of. I will for certain volunteer again, I will just pick my country of working with more patience.
My next step is to go and nurse in Riyhad, to see how international nursing of the neonate is done. I will keep you posted.