The Best Gift This Season

richRwandaDuring the holiday season, most of the people I know acquire more ‘stuff’ and enjoy an abundance of food and drink. That’s because most of the people I know do not belong to the 1.3 billion people in the world who earn less than $1.25 a day.

This season is about giving, and yet most of us spend it giving to people who don’t need anything.

Richard Johnson and his family have a better grip on global reality. Rich is an emergency physician and retrievalist based in Australia’s Red Centre. He had a life-changing experience working in Rwanda where he was shown the difference that can be made to communities stricken by poverty when you combine a relatively small amount of money with a lot of effort and love.

You can read his full story here, which is truly inspiring. In 2004, having treated a premature infant, Rebecca, who was expected to die, and subsequently seeing her nursed to full health, Rich dedicated some of his time, energy, and money to seeing that Rebecca and other orphaned children could have a chance at a safe home, medical care, and education.

He recently returned and sent this email to his friends:


I have returned from my trip to Rwanda and have a mind spinning with thoughts and possibilities. I spent three weeks visiting families and communities and seeing very difficult things and making very difficult decisions as to who we can support and who we won’t be able to.

The level of poverty that I witnessed with overt physical signs of malnutrition, poor housing, cholera outbreaks was at times overwhelming. Even though I have lived there and seen it before it seems all the more real and vivid when it is affecting people that you know and care about.

I have left money for emergency food aid, solar lights, paid for a boat to be built and fishing net, arranged for some roof repairs to weather proof houses (it is the rainy season) and arranged for primary and secondary education for some of the children. I have also employed a local man, Prince to manage the projects on the ground and whose family will be providing residential care for Rebecca during school term times to ensure her education. He is an ex-orphan and a truly remarkable man. I will personally pay his salary, the overheads costs of the project and Rebecca’s living costs. All funds raised will go to education and community support projects.

Other projects pending are further housing improvements to allow more efficient fuel use for cooking and sanitary latrines. Water security initially using filters and eventually pumps and wells. Agricultural land investment and the setting up of food and cash crop co-operative. Fishing materials. Secondary school scholarships and board to allow long term life choices via education and qualifications. Micro-finance and investment initiatives to support local enterprises.

I will be compiling a full report for those of you who wish to read it and it will be published through our website here

I estimate that we need around $15000 to set up and between $5000-$10000 per year for ten years to achieve what we are setting out. More will allow us to expand our assistance further through the community.

We have set up a crowd funding website to receive donations so please give what you feel you can and tell everybody you know about it. For those of you in Australia who would like to contribute for whom it would be cheaper to do a direct bank transfer please contact me for my account details or postal address to send a cheque; both of these latter forms of payment can be entered manually onto the website for transparency and clarity and you will receive an email confirmation and thankyou.

 

As I sat in my safe comfortable house with my full belly surrounded by my well nourished, hydrated, educated and immunised family I couldn’t help be inspired by a man giving a shit and sharing his energy and resources to help those who really need it. It was a tiny effort on my part to make an online donation. I’m not going to miss a few hundred dollars but a kid gets to go to school for a year for that. The next time I see a 92 year old dementia patient from a nursing home who’s been sent in with a blocked gastrostomy tube I might stop deluding myself about the ‘massive difference’ I’m making at work and consider that truly massive differences really can be made when we contribute to projects such as Richard’s.

So if you’re wondering whether you’ve given enough this season, feel free to consider a mosquito net, or a roof, or some schooling.

A Life Less Ordinary Facebook Page

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Effective altruism – ensuring your charity donations are not wasted

Louisa in London – Prehospital Lessons from LTC2015

The London Trauma Conference remains up there on my list of ‘must go’ conferences to attend. It marks the end of the year, fills me with hope and inspires me for the future. Unfortunately this year I was torn between the conference and the demands of clinical directorship so I could only get to the “Air Ambulance & Prehospital Care Day”. At least this way I’m saved from the dilemma of which sessions to attend!
So what were the highlights of the Prehospital Day? For me, they were Prehospital ECMO,’Picking Up the Pieces’, and the REBOA update.

Prehospital ECMO
Professor Pierre Carli gave us an update on prehospital ECMO. Professor Carli (not to be confused with the equally awesome Professor Carley) is the medical director of Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente (SAMU) in Paris. They’ve been doing prehospital ECMO in Paris since 2011 and the data analysed over three years reveals a 10% survival to hospital discharge rate. We know from the work in Asia that successful outcome following traditional cardiac arrest management and ECPR is related to the speed of the intervention. Transposing the time to intervention from his 2011 – 2013 data onto the survival curve that Chen et al produced explains why the success rate is limited:

LTC2015

The revised 2015 process aims to reduce the duration of CPR, reduce time to ECMO and therefore improve survival to discharge rates. They are doing this by dispatching the ECMO team earlier.

The eligibility criteria for ECPR is also changing; patients >18 and <75years, refractory cardiac arrest (defined as failure of ROSC after 20min of CPR), no flow for < 5 minutes with shockable rhythm or signs of life or hypothermia or intoxication, EtCO2 > 10mmHg at time of inclusion and no major comorbidity.

Already there appears to be an improvement with 16 patients treated using the revised protocol with 5 survivors (31%) – although we must be wary of the small numbers.
A concern that was expressed by the French Department of Health was the fear of a reduction in organ donation with the introduction of ECPR – it turns out that rates have remained stable. In fact the condition of non heart beating donated organs is better when ECMO has been instigated; the long term effects on organ donation are being assessed.

I’m without doubt that prehospital ECMO/ED ECMO is the future although currently in the UK our hospital systems aren’t ready for this. If you want to learn more then look at the ED ECMO site or book on one of the many emerging courses on ED ECMO including the one that is run by Dr Simon Finney at the London Trauma Conference, or if you want to go further afield you could try San Diego (although places are fully booked on the next course).

Picking Up the Pieces
The Keynote speaker was Professor Sir Simon Wessely. He is a psychiatrist with a specialist interest in military psychology and his brief was to describe to us the public response to traumatic incidents. He has worked with the military and in civilian situations. After the 7/7 London bombings the population of London was surveyed: those most likely to be affected were of lower social class, of Muslim faith, those that had a relative that was injured, those unsure of the safety of others, those with no previous experience of terrorism and those experiencing difficulty in contacting others by mobile phone. Obviously there are many factors that we cannot influence however on the basis of the last risk factor our response to incidents has changed – the active discouragement to make phone calls has been changed to a recommendation of making short calls to friends and relatives.
The previous practice of offering immediate psychological debriefing to those involved in incidents was discounted by Prof Wessely – his research demonstrated that this intervention was not only not required but could actually result in harm: only a minority have ongoing psychological distress that can benefit from formal psychological input, which should occur later.
The approach that should be taken is to allow that individual to utilise their own social networks (family, friends, and colleagues) and to accept that in some cases the individual may not want or need to talk. This has led to the development of the Trauma Risk Management (TRIM) system which provides individuals within organisations that are exposed to traumatic events the skills required to identify those at risk of developing psychological problems and to recognise the signs and symptoms of those in difficulty. To a certain extent we naturally do this for our peers – I have spent many a night sitting in the ‘Good Samaritan’ pub with colleagues from the Royal London Hospital and London’s Air Ambulance – but having a more formal system is probably of benefit to enable those who have ongoing difficulties to access additional support.

REBOA update
Finally, the REBOA update – Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta. One year on, Dr Sammy Sadek informed us that there are now more courses teaching the REBOA technique than there are (prehospital) patients that have received it. Over the last year only seven patients have qualified for this intervention in London, far fewer than they had anticipated. Another three patients died before REBOA could be instigated. All patients had a positive cardiovascular response. Four of the seven died from causes other than exsanguination. Is it worth all the effort and resource to deliver this intervention when such a select group will benefit?

Obviously there was much more covered in the day, this is just a taste. If you’ve never been to the London Trauma Conference then I definitely would recommend it and even if you have been before there are so many breakout sessions now there is always something for everyone.

More on the London Trauma Conference:

Merry Christmas and see you next year!

Louisa Chan

Why Do Emergency Medicine?

I was in Edinburgh two weeks ago, examining for the Diploma in Retrieval and Transfer Medicine. From there I flew to Slovenia, where I ran a critical care course and then was invited to give a talk entitled ‘Why I Do Emergency Medicine’.

Little did I realise that I’d left behind in Edinburgh a department full of people who had also considered this question and provided an inspiring answer:

 

Wishing our colleagues and patients a safe and fulfilling Christmas & New Year