Nitin K., University of New South Wales, Feb 2 – Mar 13
Initially, preparing for a 2 month overseas medical trip can appear daunting, but it is very much a simple process. Things to keep in mind:
— Budget for the whole trip (and be generous with estimating expenditures) so that you are able to comfortably travel without having to constantly worry about your spending.
— Try and do as much as work before arriving in the country. i.e. booking hotels, local travel, internal flights, visas, etc.
— Be up to date on your vaccinations. Also, bring basic medications such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, loperamide, promethazine, electrolytes, band-aids etc.
— Use common sense when it comes to drinking water and food.
— Read up on local culture and customs.
My first day started off with me doing a PowerPoint presentation to the local staff describing where I am from, my background and what I expect to gain from CSC.
This was followed by ward rounds where I got introduced to the current patients that were being looked after. This gave me an opportunity to become more familiar with the CSC patients.
Next it was off to the Operating Theatre where I first observed a cleft lip/palate repair following which I got the chance to scrub in for a Girdlestone procedure, which I had never heard of or seen before. When it came to closing, the surgeon turned to me and handed me the needle driver. It was truly trial by fire. On self-reflection I can say that I suture significantly faster and better than I did when I started.
Then quick lunch at the canteen and off to the Operating Theatre again. By the time we were finished, it was 4:30 in the evening and it was time to call it a day.
An interesting case that I came across was of a 16 year old boy who presented with a lump in his knee. Initially, plain radiography was done and he was taken to theatre to have a biopsy done on the lump. This was successfully taken and sent off to the pathologist. It came back as being a high grade osteosarcoma. The treatment at this point was agreed upon as being an above knee amputation. The family refused to comply with the treatment. It was interesting because I found out later that some Khmers believe that a human being is meant to be whole and that amputation in this life can mean that in the next life the person will be born with a missing limb. It was quite eye-opening to me how cultural beliefs can impede life-saving treatment.
Phnom Penh is a vibrant city and has a great nightlife all year-round. So going out to bars/pubs and meeting people is not an issue. Also, there are almost always medical students doing a rotation here so it makes being social a lot easier.
On the weekends, I traveled to Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Kampot. They are all destinations that I recommend everyone visit if they are able to organize it on the weekend.
There are plenty of places for accommodation around Phnom Penh. I stayed at the Mad Monkey Hostel. I paid $18 night for a private room with a double bed and shared bathrooms. I liked staying there, although people who prefer to consistently have a quiet night’s sleep, I wouldn’t recommend it, as it is a backpacker friendly hostel.