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Imagine you’re having a baby. Even if you’re a man, still imagine it! Here in Wales having that baby is a very big thing, so big a thing, that you have very many people looking after you: your family GP, your very own Midwife in the community, your hospital Midwife, your Obstetrician and of course your Anaesthetist. You are surrounded by people who really care for you and your baby in a safe, clean environment with all sorts of care straight to hand should anything start going wrong.
Professor Judith Hall
Imagine you are having a baby but now you are in Namibia. Dare I say it, but having a baby in Namibia is an even bigger thing than having a baby in Wales: there is so much danger involved for you and your baby. There is certainly no Anaesthetist to look after you: an Anaesthetist would recognise an emergency, treat and resuscitate you and baby to get you well, and then Anaesthetists are absolutely essential to get baby out safely. I am an Anaesthetist; I know we can help the people of Namibia.
Namibia is a huge desert of a country with enormous distances between health clinics and hospitals. It’s 40 times bigger than Wales with nearly the same population, that means if you live in the country it’s a very long way to go to hospital. You’re a mum, say you have an emergency, you’re bleeding, losing lots of blood, baby is not kicking and you’re terrified for your baby's life and for your life too. When you eventually get to a hospital it’s not likely there are qualified staff to help you. Baby needs to come out quickly, but how do you get the baby out quickly without an Anaesthetist? This is how tragedies occur.
Mums die, babies die, I know, I've seen it happen throughout Africa. I've seen a woman travelling 8 hours to get to a hospital for help and then die on arrival. And the baby died too. I’ve seen the tragedy of a mum dying herself and losing her twins because she’s travelled so far, lost so much blood and got an overwhelming infection. I’ve seen tiny babies die because mum has malaria and there aren’t staff to resuscitate and treat mum and baby. When you’re used to things going right here in Wales, it’s terrible, shocking in fact, to see this complete waste of young lives.
If you are a mum in Namibia you are 17 times more likely to die in childbirth than in Wales, that’s a terrible statistic. If only better care could be available in the smaller hospitals of Namibia, many more mums will definitely survive. In Namibia there are only two part-time qualified Anaesthetists, if they had the same proportion as in Wales there should be 1100! That means there’s a lot of work to do.
Learning to deal with emergencies
Along with a team of Anaesthetists from Wales, I'm trying to make this better. I'm leading Cardiff University's Phoenix Project and we’re working with both the doctors of Namibia and the University to run Anaesthesia courses training doctors to give better care. I’m running three intensive courses this year concentrating on recognition and immediate management of sick mums and safe Anaesthesia for Caesarian Section. On the first trip I took out two great Welsh Anaesthetic doctors Chris Terblanche and Najia Hasan. We need to save mums from the three big killers: infections, bleeding and fitting because of high blood pressure. I’m hoping to introduce, along with the University of Namibia and the Health System, the first ever speciality course for doctors over there, so that they can have specialists just as we do in Wales.
We’re going to try and save lives by getting the right care for mums and babies, in the right place, at the right time, by training lots of Anaesthetists.
The Minister for Health hosts a celebration at the end of the course
I would really want to become an anesthesiologist. I’ve always loved playing doctors and with only five more years left in high school I will go to varsity and study Anesthesiology.