Swiss Surgical Team, Aliade, Nigeria

3-16 January 2012

After the successful missions at St. Vincent's hospital in Aliade and St.Mary's hospital in Okpoga one year ago we decided to make arrangements to again put together two teams to serve the two hospitals simultaneously. The teams included four surgeons, one anaesthetist and a scrub nurse each. Six members had previous experience in humanitarian work; the other six were first-timers.

Welcome Nigeria
Welcome Nigeria

Just around Christmas time and only a few days before our scheduled departure there was some commotion due to a series of terror attacks on Christian institutions in Nigeria. Since the bombings took place in rather distant parts of the country we decided to proceed with the mission as planned.

After a tiresome journey we were warmly welcomed by the staff of St. Vincent hospital with singing and dancing. After a short break our numerous boxes were sorted and the equipment distributed between the two teams.  The Okpoga team then continued their trip towards their destination while the Aliade team, Peter Nussbaumer, Melanie Kauper, Mirjam Busch, Corinne Beerle (surgeons), Elvira Hospenthal (scrub nurse) and Anca Stauffacher (anaesthetist) set up the operating theatre the same evening to be ready for the rush of patients the next day.

So the next morning we started. As early as five o clock the first patients arrived and started to line up. Most of them had been put on the list by the antecedent team some months ago. Following confirmation of the diagnosis they went to pay the fee for the operation. They were charged 3000 Naira (20 USD) for a unilateral and 5000 Naira for a bilateral procedure. Then they lined up in front of the theatre and patiently awaited their turn.

Operating, Nigeria
Operating, Nigeria
The team, Nigeria
The team, Nigeria

Inside the theatre one hernia after the other was treated by mesh repair with mosquito-net. The three teams worked untiringly, the operating table being vacant just long enough to be cleaned again. Children under the age of two were operated on first thing in the morning, and our experienced anaesthetist earns a mark of respect for managing these delicate cases extraordinarily well without proper equipment. Only after finishing the paediatric cases was the A/C put on again, what a relief! Our scrub nurse once again was like a diligent bee. Not even the smallest detail escaped her watchful eye and she was first in and last out every day.

The list was usually finished between 7 and 8 p.m., in case of emergency cases like C/S, ruptured uterus or strangulated paediatric hernias somewhat later.

The evenings were spent admiring the full moon and the stars, enjoying a cold beer.

During 8 days we were able to treat 164 patients and perform 195 interventions. Half of them were teaching operations, and another 25% were done by the local staff alone.

Once again the hospitality of the matron and her team was generous. They went out of their way to make our stay relaxed and convenient. And Austin Ella, the local coordinator made a big effort both before and during the mission, despite the nationwide strike and consecutive delayed return journey home we never experienced the slightest feeling of insecurity. 
Altogether the team spent a very satisfactory and unforgettable time at St. Vincent s, and we thank everybody involved for their help and support. 


Peter Nussbaumer