Volunteer Orthopaedic Surgery in Malawi

The two permanent orthopaedic consultants working in the intensely busy trauma unit were grateful to receive support from a British trained orthopaedic surgeon, taking leave and leaving Nick as the only working trauma orthopaedic surgeon soon after his arrival in the capital city.

The quality of the roads in this part of Africa is poor, with numerous potholes and no barriers between the opposite road lanes or at the sides of the roads. Street lighting is non-existent and vehicle quality is not strictly regulated. The result is an large volume of trauma from road traffic accidents.  The volume is overwhelming – Kamuzu Central Hospital has 1000 beds and there are 2500 patients in the hospital.  Beds are literally touching each other on the wards and patients lie on mattresses on the floor outside the main ward and outside on the veranda.  Nick travelled out with two of his previous registrars (neither of whom had ever been to Africa before) and they worked their first week in the capital city, where they operated all day, every day, managing to complete a large number of varied operations including fixation of multiple leg fractures, as well as treating injured children and one lady who had (just) survived being struck by lightning. The second week, Nick and the surgical team from Lilongwe, accompanied by medical officers and a scrub team, travelled up in convoy to the northern part of Malawi, where they worked in a local hospital in Nkhata Bay. Their first day was spent in clinic (a vacated ward, with no air-conditioning and very hot and humid temperatures) seeing a large number of cases that varied from children’s knee deformities to HIV related hip disorders. This clinic provided the next 3 days worth of patients on whom to operate.

The trip to Malawi was very satisfying, and although the team worked hard, they also managed one or two days relaxing by and snorkeling in the beautiful lake Malawi.