The surgeons push on late into the night, assessing patients, prepping them for surgery, waiting for instruments to be taken out of the autoclave, and discussing efficiency improvements. They are exhausted, yet thrilled to be working so hard together. One of them makes the remark that this feels like when they were interns, working around the clock yet incredibly interested in all that happens. A camaraderie builds, and out of their weariness, humor rises. I bring in my iPod speakers, select some blues music, and spirits soar. I’m glad I ended up packing that heavy thing after all.
Four surgeons are rotating patients and assisting each other with any menial task. There is no questioning of roles, no ego, no positioning of power.
Dr. Rahel Nardos, a uro-gynecologist fellow and native Ethiopian, is here to assess the hospital’s capabilities and create a proposal for Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) to send rotating residents and staff to perform surgeries and train local doctors. It is vitally important to make sure knowledge is increased at the local level, so that more expertise is developed with Ethiopian doctors, otherwise our mission is more altruistic than humanitarian focused. The residents benefit as well, as they will see a vast variety of pathologies that they would otherwise not see in years, if ever, in the US.
Dr. Michael Cheek is a gynecologist from the Lincoln City, Oregon area, and this is his third trip to Gimbie. His cheerful nature helps everyone get through even the most intense situations. He works alongside his brother, Dr. David Cheek, a brilliant anesthesiologist. Together they make a great team, especially when they break out in harmonic song at any given time, their voices intertwining in a perfectly matched manner.
Dr. Kim Suriano and Dr. Philippa Ribbink are OB/GYNs and owners of a private practice, Everywoman’s Health, at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon. They are familiar with each other’s surgery styles, and move about the operating room needing very little words to convey what they will do next. Dr. Tekle is the only local Ethiopian doctor in the room, and he is joined by an exceptionally talented local Ethiopian nursing staff.
Patients come and go, bizarre pathologies are seen in addition to the prolapse cases, and soon the operating room’s activity is like a finely tuned band of musicians. My daughter Brynn enters the room, scrubbed and ready to do whatever is asked of her. I am a bit stunned that this is permitted, and even more surprised that she was willing to come in to observe the surgeries.
Before I can process my thoughts, she is handed some instruments and is asked to cut suture, spread cavity walls, and dab blood. She does it all, seemingly unfazed by the fragility and rawness of life that rests vulnerably in front of her. She stays throughout the four hour completion of the surgery, and is clear headed and confident as she leaves to go work with the outer clinics with their dental activities.