Approaching thankfulness

There’s a lot that we aren’t thankful for this year.

High risk of anaesthesia mortality; low chance of getting a C-section when you need one.

Warehouses full of inappropriate medical equipment, operating rooms bereft of the most basic, functional devices.

But if we only read the starkest statistics, told each other the bleakest stories, we’d give up.  Dress the turkey in our baggiest clothes and send it in to work, because what’s the point of trying.

Sorry to disappoint you, turkey.  Not one single person we have met this year has given up.

Far from it – we work with colleagues who are so dedicated, traveling hundreds of miles, working weeks melting into years on end to raise the standard of surgical care in their hospitals, that sometimes it’s hard to believe that the statistics are true.

OR_Balkh General Hospital_Afghanistan_2012 (2)

And we’ve had such generous support from donors around the world, challenging themselves in every forum to raise funds and awareness of the surgical safety crisis that, though it statistically remains “the neglected stepchild of global health” it feels like we’re part of an extended family devoted to ending that neglect.


It’s not Thanksgiving everywhere today, but we wanted to take the opportunity to join in the spirit.  Yes we’re dissatisfied with the way the world works, and yes there are things we want to change.  But we work with people every day who are doing just that: teaching, giving, sharing, saving (all the best parts of the Thanksgiving story and none of the bad ones), and we are humble and grateful for it.

To all our colleagues around the world who are celebrating today, cheers to turkey and thankfulness!  And to all those who are working to make surgery safer, and to bringing this life-saving, vital healthcare component to those who need it – thank you!



Are you sitting comfortably?

“Suddenly, to no one’s surprise, a large black object, namely Remy’s suitcase, flew off the roof, down the windshield and landed in front of us.”

Burkina Faso_flying suitcase

Well see, I was on the roof. And then I wasn’t.

Between the needs assessment and the measurement; alongside the logistics of funding and coordinating equipment distribution and training for a hundred people traveling in from a hundred different directions – behind every formal, filed report, it’s easy to forget that there are stories.

Really good stories, that sound like the beginning of a rollicking children’s book.  Scenes with uninventable characters who make outrageous jokes, and moments that take such unexpected turns they change your understanding of everything you thought you had cemented before take off.

And reflections.  And emotions.

And even, on occasion, flying suitcases.

Burkina Faso_mask

Lifebox is in the business of making surgery safer, not entertaining, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to laugh and gasp about along the way.  We don’t need to embellish the painful and difficult stories that come to us from colleagues in hospitals around the world, but we don’t want you to think for a moment that’s all there is either.

So we’ve found a new home for our friends and adventurers!

Introducing Lifebox Journeys – diarised days from our colleagues delivering Lifebox training around the world – a direct link from our (mostly) organized (always) paper-heavy desk to their eyes and ears and hearts and heads a thousand miles away.  Usually further.

Woman on scooter_Burkina Faso

Our first pages began a couple of weeks ago in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where Lifebox trustee Dr Angela Enright (past president of the WFSA and CAS) was assisted by project officer and logistics expert Remy Turc (of the flying suitcase) on a week-long training project, including distribution of 117 oximeters.

“[Burkina Faso] was a French colony formerly known as Upper Volta,” she writes.  “For some strange reason, this makes me want to burst into the Song of the Volga Boatmen but it is Volta not Vogal – although Volta is a river and maybe the boatmen do have a song of their own.”

The programme was led by Professor Nazinigouba Ouédraogo, president of the national anaesthesia society SARMU-B (Société d’anesthésie-réanimation et de médecine d’urgence).

Faculty_Burkina Faso

The A (BF) Team

They organized the workshops wonderfully well and were so gracious…The teachers were amazing.  They included staff and residents who had not previously been exposed to this type of workshop or the contents…It quickly became obvious that, once they had the idea of interactive learning and discussion, they did not need our help…natural teachers with flair and the ability to think on their feet.”

There were hospital visits, pre- and post- training tests, lectures and group sessions; there was a long piece in the local hospital website all about it – and no time to write down more than the most immediate, personal, insightful reflections.

So, back to the original question.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then Angela will begin.


DAY 1: October 23rd 2013 Transportation Trails and Trials.

What do fog, ferries and Burkina Faso have in common?  Read on to find out.

Walk/Run for Safer Surgery

“I don’t care how you get here,” croons Brenda Russell, “just get here if you can.”  The same could be sung for the AANA’s Eight Annual Wellness Fun 5K Walk/Run.  Everyone welcome!

Janet and coffee

The goal of the early morning trek through the Las Vegas heat wasn’t the fastest time, but the best time – the health benefits, the camaraderie and most importantly, the awareness and fundraising for safe surgery worldwide.CNA Scott2

Hundreds of CRNAs braved the desert in August to support Lifebox, walk/running through the Nevada haze to raise more than $4000.  This will provide pulse oximeters and training in safe surgical practices for hospitals around the world in need.

Nurse anaesthetists were some of our first Lifebox friends.  They know that anaesthesia in low-resource settings is predominantly delivered by nurse anesthetists and technicians, and they’re devoted to supporting colleagues worldwide who lack the equipment and training to safely care for their patients.

From direct contributions – like Janet Dewan (CRNA, MS)’s donation to an old colleague Dr Maman Sani Chaibou in Niger last year to fundraising events like the Walk/Run, AANA, their dedication to wellness and social responsibility is inherent to the organisation and members are helping to make surgery safer.

Thank you!

Ps – of course it’s still nice to medal.  Congratulations to Tiffany Dodson, Sarah Lancos, Kaitlin Kenny and Jonathan Beck, Aaron Ainsworth and Kerry Varner, the top three women’s and men’s finishers!

am13women_winners273am13_men winners H