Life as a flying doctor

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February 26th 2014
Published: February 26th 2014
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These few weeks have truly been action packed and memorable. Being an AMREF flying doctor definitely keeps me busy and out of trouble!

First let me tell you a little about AMREF. The African Medical Research Foundation was set up by 3 plastic surgeons in 1957. They had identified that there were many patients in Africa in need of plastic surgery following injuries from war, accidents etc. They started travelling around Africa, running clinics and operating. This soon snowballed. They realised that flying to the patients was quicker that travelling overland, thus the “flying” part begun. It soon became clear that in many cases the facilities required were not available in remote areas and that it was better to evacuate the patient to a more resourced hospital. Meanwhile, they had also started outreach programs including teaching and preventative medicine.

Now AMREF is a large organization and AMREF flying doctors is a non profit company that is a branch of AMREF. They make their money by billing insurance companies so a lot of the flights we do are evacuations or repatriating tourists or expats who have become unwell/ been in an accident who have travel insurance. This money is used
AMREF hangarAMREF hangarAMREF hangar

Trying to look important
to run the company and the profit is used to fund charity flights (evacuating a local patient from rural Kenya free of charge, stabilizing them and taking them to Nairobi for more definitive treatment) or outreach programs (e.g. Surgeons travelling to a rural area and spending time there operating and teaching).

We have 3 types of planes - the jet (fastest but requires a proper runway), a caravan (spacious, can land in most places but slow and unpressurized) and the king air (somewhere in between). I like the caravan because they fly lower so the views are stunning for the entire journey. Downside is that it is super turbulent. A vomiting doctor is not ideal! The patients are brought to the airport to meet us if stable, otherwise we go to the hospital.

I am enjoying it here. My colleagues are great to work with and I like the buzz of landing on a dirt runway in the middle of nowhere not knowing what is in store for us. Not that I wish bad things to happen to people, but the flights that I don't enjoy as much are the ones where we arrive somewhere and the patient
AMREF caravanAMREF caravanAMREF caravan

Can often feel like a rollercoaster in here depending on the weather, especially in the afternoon. Thank god for antiemetics!
is well enough to walk onto the plane and all I do is give them some paracetamol, a sandwich and fill out a load of forms!!!! Thankfully that doesn't often happen. You know me – nothing better than an adrenaline fuelled trip!

Since starting this job on February 3rd, I have been to Rotterdam (yes, the Rotterdam in Europe), Djbouti, South Sudan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zanzibar, Johannesburg, Addis Abeba twice, Tanzania 7 times, Mogadishu 3 times and 3 flights within Kenya!!!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 41, Displayed: 23


Nairobi to LodwarNairobi to Lodwar
Nairobi to Lodwar

Can't get bored of these views

Stabilising a critically unwell patient from the local hospital before transferring to airstrip.
Lodwar to NairobiLodwar to Nairobi
Lodwar to Nairobi

We had to perform CPR multiple times during this flight. Unfortunately she died in hospital. Sad case.

We took this patient from Ileret to Wamba

27th February 2014

Excellent Blog. It allowed me to have a brief look at your work and environment you work in. Loved it.
28th February 2014

Thanks dad. Miss you (only occasionally of course ). Looking forward to you coming to visit xxx
28th February 2014

I am so impressed! Can\\\'t wait to hear what you are doing now.
1st April 2014

Thank you. Glad you are reading it. x
3rd March 2014

AMREF definitely is doing great job. I have full respect for the team members who are volunteering their service on behalf of AMREF. I would like to know whether any group is working in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh!
1st April 2014

Hi. I am not sure, will find out for you. x

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