After arriving in Morobo the team assessed the facilities and began with the task of creating an operating room from scratch. An empty building, filtered well water and the diesel generator were our starting points. Our host Dave expertly constructed an O.R. table using local mahogany wood and cushions from an old couch. Within hours the team had constructed a fully functioning operating room with oxygen, monitoring equipment, and electrocautery.
In the morning team coordinated with local general practice doctors, arranging postoperative care and discussing previously screened patients for surgery. Not surprisingly, word had traveled quickly that a U.S. surgical team had arrived and sparked an exodus of prospective patients from up to forty miles away to our makeshift surgical clinic. With no hotels or housing for patients and their families to stay many simply opted to set up camp in the surrounding bush and wait for their turn to be evaluated.
A wide array of patients were evaluated with score of large hernias, unusual tumors and growths, and several emergency cases. Unfortunately, more patients arrived than could be operated on. We attempted to prioritize as much as possible to maximize our short time in-country. The repair of hernia is particularly valuable to this population because it allows individuals to return to work in the fields to provide for their families. In addition, patients stigmatized culturally because of large, deforming tumor growths can have the opportunity for a more normal life following removal. Overall, the team successfully performed close to forty operations. Our communication with the local doctors postoperatively revealed no postoperative complications or infections one month following the surgeries.
Overall, the expedition was a resounding success from both a medical and personal standpoint. Aside from surgical success stories of the trip the many new friendships and relationships we developed were the most rewarding aspect of the trip. Our time spent with our gracious hosts on the compound and the interaction with the local population will provide lasting memories for a lifetime.