Operation open heart in Vanuatu

Working as part of a cardiac team in Vanuatu was a moving and inspiring experience for Adam Williams, EEN at Sydney Adventist Hospital.

When you mention Vanuatu, most people think of the sun, sand and surf. This trip was very different. I went behind the scenes and witnessed first-hand the suffering and sorrow of the Vanuatu people who suffer from various cardiac diseases. This is the story of our efforts as volunteers to give them a better quality of life with what we did and didn’t have in the way of equipment.

When I was growing up, I remember my late mother telling me about caring for those less fortunate than myself and I would reap untold rewards in return. Little did I know how true this would be when I started nursing.

I wanted to go on an outreach trip to learn and experience performing cardiac surgery in another country – perhaps a third world developing one. After losing both parents to cardiac diseases and having a 13-month-old niece recovering from cardiac surgery, I felt compelled to give it a go. So, what started out as a clinical trip also became personal as well.

The Operation Open Heart Program at the Sydney Adventist Hospital visits countries such as Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Mongolia and, for the first time this year, Rwanda.

The Vanuatu team operated at the Port Villa Hospital. Most of our equipment and medical supplies were donated from various sources. I went as a nurse in the post-op ward, where I was able to spend a bit more time with the patients and their families.

The contrast with the environment I am used to working in at the SAN to the conditions I worked under in Vanuatu was amazing.

We performed ten operations on adults and nine on children, ranging from valve repairs/replacements to septal defect repairs.

However, I was welcomed into the lives of my patients and also their families, helping them to have a better quality of life and a much longer life span.

I came back to Australia with a bit of Vanuatu in me, and I hope I left a bit of me in Vanuatu.