An eye-opening experience!

Reflections from Ian - a med student from Australia - on his 6-week CSC medical elective: "For the last 2 years, I have spent most of my time at tertiary centres in metropolitan Adelaide, South Australia, in environments vastly different to CSC. One of the most striking differences is the pathology seen; especially ailments that have been left untreated for an extended period due to patient financial constraints. Many come from the rural provinces of Cambodia, where even traveling to Phnom Penh can be a big financial burden. As a result, many patients try to live with broken bones or big tumours for as long as they possibly can, sometimes months or years.

In my time here, I have witnessed untreated femur fractures in teenage farmers who need hip replacements and amputations due to untreated massive bone tumors. Additionally, I have observed complex nerve transfer surgeries for extensive brachial plexus injuries. Such injuries are extremely rare in Australia but are much more common in Cambodia due to the frequency of motorbike accidents. It has been an invaluable experience. It is inspiring to see the staff at CSC work around the various cost-related constraints, from the way a patient is assessed, to the way that surgeries are performed.  Here, the doctors' clinical reasoning plays a much bigger role in the assessment of the patient; doctors tailor investigations to specific patient needs to manage cost.

In the theatres at CSC, the gowns and drapes used are all re-sterilised and re-used, no single use here! Even a lot of the metalwork such as plates and screws used for internal or external fixation of fractures are re-sterilised and used after being removed from the patient, something that I've never seen in Australia.

Reviewing the post-operative patients in clinic is also rewarding. It is fantastic to see the impact of the work, to see the patients get good results from these life-changing operations that they may struggle to afford if not for organisations such as CSC. I am very grateful for all the staff at CSC, and everyone who contributed to making this experience possible, the things I've learned and seen here will make me a better and more well-rounded doctor when I graduate at the end of this year."

Author: Ellen Interlandi

Ellen, a registered nurse, and her husband Brian, an anesthesiologist, have been active volunteers at CSC since 2008. Ellen has undergraduate degrees in both Nursing and Spanish Literature, and a graduate degree in Health Management. Since 2020, Ellen has volunteered in the role of Stakeholder Relations, connecting with our generous supporters, interacting with visiting surgeons and students, and disseminating updates on Children's Surgical Centre.

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