Giving the gift of time; Volunteer medical work in Cambodia

I travelled to Cambodia in August 2017, as part of an Australian volunteer medical group, including four doctors and four nurses. Over five days we had the privilege to run five clinics in the northern town of Battambang, as well as in outlying villages.

It was a challenging, gratifying and sometimes confronting time in which we helped over 350 patients. A large proportion of them were children. Most were treated in schoolrooms that had simply been re-arranged for our use. In addition to typical childhood illnesses, common problems encountered included diabetes, arthritis, and dental problems causing pain. Our work also involved care of amputees, managing severe thyroid disease, heart failure, mumps, cancer, HIV with its complications and many more medical problems.

In Cambodia generally, and especially in the villages, access to medical care and basic medications is heartbreakingly limited. So we travelled with 120kg of equipment and supplies donated or paid for using previously secured funds through fundraising. This had been coordinated through a GoFundMe online page set up by a dedicated nurse from Brisbane. During our visit, we arranged tests and appropriate clinical management plans for our Cambodian patients and will now be following them up remotely from Australia.

I feel humbled and grateful for the opportunity to continue helping patients from a distance, and I know it makes me a more experienced doctor enabling me to care for my local patients as well. One thing that I certainly took away is a solid understanding of how resilient human beings can be in the face of adversity. The things I was able to see, learn and experience were a tribute to this very special initiative.

If you are interested in our next international medical aid there are many ways you could help. Your time and knowledge would be appreciated in setting up and running the group. Please let Eclipse Medical know if this is something you might like to be involved in. Personally, I know that finding the time to help others is not easy. But I also know it is most certainly worth it. Dr Carita Shield.