LCHM Summer 2018 - 20

FEATURE

Surgical Mission to Nigeria
A Study in Contrasts
BY PETER VINCENT ROVITO

A

s I struggled down the hallway with
the roughly 100-pound oxygen tank,
it occurred to me that this race to
get the oxygen where it needed to
be to save a life was symbolic of our whole
surgical mission to Nigeria in November
2017 - vital, but far more difficult than it
should have been.

I tried to rearrange the awkward tank,
which was taller than me, so I could move
faster. Dragging it along the dirty floor was
too slow, so I cradled it as well as I could
and kept going, thankful for the hours in
the gym which made me strong enough to
lift it in the first place.

As I neared the OR, a bystander grabbed
At the other end of the hallway, a woman one end and together we delivered the heavy
was struggling to breathe because her throat tank. But just getting it there wasn't enough.
had filled with blood from thyroid surgery There was no valve to regulate the flow, so I
earlier that day. Two surgeons were working wrapped my hand around the connection to
frantically to relieve the pressure on her create a seal between the broken regulator
recurrent laryngeal nerve so she could and tank. That way, the surgeons could
breathe, but she needed oxygen and there establish oxygen flow for the patient, whose
was only one tank in that part of the hospital. throat they had just cut open to release the
Unfortunately, it wasn't on wheels and it blood and clots which were blocking her
was a long way from the Operating Room. breathing. With the pressure relieved and

20 Lehigh County Health & Medicine | SUMMER 2018



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of LCHM Summer 2018

LCHM Summer 2018 - 1
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