Comment voulez-vous dire oxymètre de pouls en français

“77,000 operation rooms?” said a visitor to the Lifebox Foundation booth at the European Anaesthesiology Congress last week.   “But that’s too much!”

We talk about the pulse oximetry gap so often that it’s easy to forget what a shocking statistic it really is.  Anaesthesia without pulse oximetry monitoring is incredibly dangerous, and lives depend upon closing the gap.  So we were delighted when the European Society of Anaesthesiology (ESA), the largest anaesthesia organization in Europe, with a longstanding commitment to improving safety and quality of patient care, announced its support of Lifebox in March.

And two weeks ago we took up their kind invitation, packed our oximeters, brochures, banner and trusty Make It 0 video and set off for EUROANAESTHESIA 2012!

You know you’re at a conference in Paris when the adverts for medical equipment are side by side with the Cannes Film Festival as promoted by Marilyn Monroe

The congress was enormous – more than 7000 people in total, so plenty of opportunity to bump in to old friends and make some new acquaintances!  We found Dr Carl Heidelmeyer, a consultant anaesthetist from the U.K., who worked with the Rotary Club of Portishead to raise funds for pulse oximeters last year.

“Equipment is usually a failure if you don’t provide training and know-how too,” he explained, of the club’s decision to support Lifebox’s equipment and education platform.

The neighbouring Rotary Club in Nailsea & Backwell supports what was previously the Makunduchi Project in Zanzibar, and the Portishead club wanted their donation to go to a facility nearby.  So we arranged with the newly-named Health Improvement Project Zanzibar (HIPZ) for six oximeters and spare probes to be sent to Kivunge Hospital in the North district.  They went out in March, and we’ll hopefully have more information for you soon!

The security guards have that certain je ne sais quoi

Something that came up in conversations last week is the obvious truth that low-cost equipment is only low-cost if it’s transported affordably too.   When we were developing Lifebox, we put a lot of work into ensuring that the shipping cost was included in the price of the oximeter – $250, regardless of geographic location.

In a lot of low-resource settings, solid supply chains don’t exist – meaning that the same piece of equipment can end up costing much more in a low-resource country than it would in a high-resource one.

Dr Victor Ofeogbu, an anaesthesiologist from Imo State in Nigeria, can tell you about that.  He recently spent 25,000 Naira of his own money – more than $150 – on a small finger pulse oximeter.  Better suited to spot checks than the OR, it will help him to keep his patients safe – but a Lifebox pulse oximeter, in every theatre, and every recovery setting, would help a lot more.

We’re grateful to ESA for this opportunity to introduce Lifebox to a new audience.  We met a lot of anaesthetists excited and eager to support their colleagues in low-resource settings, and we can’t wait to see the conversations, ideas and actions that follow!


“Lifebox Africa”: an AA-wesome Effort by South University Students!

All the way from Georgia, U.S.A. without further ado:

“Lifebox Africa” is an Anesthesiologist Assistant (AA) student-led initiative that made local news recently after the South University students from the Savannah, GA campus raised more than $1200 to help improve surgical safety in sub-Saharan Africa!

The  students were inspired to help Lifebox after finding out that over 70% of sub-Saharan African hospitals do not have pulse oximeters and after learning of a classmate’s mission work in Kenya in 2011.

“We use pulse oximetry with every one of our patients so we really understand how not having a pulse oximeter would really affect our daily practice. Lifebox is such an important organization because there are still over 77,000 operating rooms in under-developed countries worldwide that do not have pulse oximeters. At South University, we decided to help!” explained student Claire Wainwright.

This is seriously artful

As part of the “Lifebox Africa” project, the students organized a booth at the American Academy of Anesthesthesiologist Assistant (AAAA) Conference and sold handmade retractable badge clips made from discarded medicine-bottle caps collected during clinical rotations in Savannah, GA.

“Koozies” – Lifebox staff in the UK learn a new word

During the four-day event, “Lifebox Africa” raised over $1,200 towards the purchase pulse oximeters for operating rooms in Sub-Saharan African hospitals. Pulse oximetry and the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist can help dramatically reduce deaths from surgery, and this contribution will make an enormous difference. The fact that our students have chosen to devote their limited time to this project shows a strong commitment to patient safety worldwide,” said Stacie Wong, M.D., an anesthesiologist and professor in the AA program at South University. 

Thank you to everyone involved!

Direct Donation

For anaesthetists in countries where pulse oximeters are hundred-a-hospital, the idea of putting patients under without this essential monitoring is unthinkable.

But once you’ve worked in a country where this is the norm – once you call colleague the anaesthesia providers who are forced to work with minimal equipment, support and training – it’s hard to stop thinking about it.

That was certainly the case for CRNA Janet Dewan, chair of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) Health and Wellness Committee, who first went to work in Niger in 1974.

She recently donated an oximeter through Lifebox and knew exactly who she wanted it to go to: Dr Maman Sani Chaibou, an anaesthetist and head of emergency services at Hôpital National Niamey.

Janet and Sani

She sent us a report of her experiences in Niger, and told us how a direct donation through Lifebox can be a personally rewarding experience that makes an immediate contribution to surgical safety.

Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries, and bears a tremendous health burden with limited resources. Little has changed since I first worked there as an anesthetist in 1974, while the risk of anesthesia in wealthy health systems has decreased dramatically.

It is not unusual to hear of anesthetic deaths, often from situations that might have been detected with modern monitoring.  I knew from my recent volunteer experiences in Niamey that anesthetists, even at the 1000 bed National Hospital, rarely had the benefit of using functional pulse oximetry for their patients. 

In 2008 we introduced the Safe Surgery Checklist in some of the hospital’s operating rooms but anesthetists often had to respond “no” when asked if audible pulse oximetry was in place.

It was very gratifying to me to be able to earmark my donation to Lifebox for a pulse oximeter for one of my anesthesia colleagues in Niger.  Within a month of my on-line contribution, Dr. Maman Sani Chaibou was delighted to send me photos of him monitoring an ICU patient with the Lifebox pulse ox device.

The AANA has adopted Lifebox to benefit from the Annual Walk/Run proceeds and a Lifebox collection box will be at the Health and Wellness booth at the Annual Meeting

Thanks to the AANA for designating this charity that connects us to our global anesthesia colleagues while supporting safe surgery by closing the pulse oximetry gap.

Sani sent Janet his best wishes, and the above photo from the operating room, where the pulse oximeter was immediately put to work.

If you would like to donate to a particular colleague, facility or country, please email us at We have a waiting list of colleagues in need, and your contribution today will put an oximeter in their hands next week.