Global Surgery team work

An email pings in from Boston, USA – subject: Oximeter to India?

As l read Lifebox chair and co-founder Atul Gawande’s editorial published in the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery I am reminded of this moment: our part in a global chain reaction sparked in  desperate response to the challenges faced by Dr Shrikant Jaiswal, first and only anaesthetist at Umarkhed Hospital in India.

Lancet Commission on Global Surgery

Umarkhed is the closest hospital to the rural village where Atul’s father grew up.  It serves a community of over 60,000 people in the town and a quarter million others in surrounding areas, and, as he wrote in a recent Lancet article  “like so many hospitals in low-income settings, [it did] not have essential monitoring systems – even just a pulse oximeter.”

Pulse oximeters are the single most important monitors in modern anaesthesia, allowing healthcare workers to ensure their patients are adequately oxygenated and stable. The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, a year-long, collaborative research effort into the issue chose pulse oximetry as a proxy measure for safety in surgery: it’s a machine with enormous practical and symbolic value, and a key component of Lifebox’s safer surgery work. 

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“Listening to Dr Jaiswal on the phone, I realised that for all the communities Lifebox had helped, we had not helped the community where my own family had come from,” Atul wrote in the Lancet.

“How fast could we get three oximeters to reach the frontline in India?” he wrote to us.

This moment also represents team work – it shows how a small group of people working together in a shoebox office in London respond to the needs of medical professionals, like Jaiswal, all over the world.

Countries worldwide

Since 2011, Lifebox has distributed nearly 9000 pulse oximeters to hospitals in 90 countries – working with anaesthetists, surgeons and healthcare professionals across low and high resource settings to ensure that more communities have access to safer surgery.

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When Atul’s email came in, the next step was to pass on to Lifebox Procurement Manager, Remy Turc. Remy handles the distribution of pulse oximeters, ensuring that this essential piece of monitoring equipment makes its way from our manufacturer in Taiwan, to hospitals in low resource settings.

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“I gave Lifebox Jaiswal’s address and made a donation for three oximeters to be delivered,” explained Atul.

Thanks to a collaborative effort, in just over a week Jaiswal received the three pulse oximeters he so desperately needed in order to provide life-saving treatment – one for the operating theatre, one for the labour ward and one for the recovery room.

His story powerfully demonstrates the changing global health landscape. For the first time in history you’re more likely to be killed by a surgically treatable condition than a communicable disease; but in low resource settings surgery can be a challenge to access and desperately unsafe.

The recent launch of the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, culminating in a report that aims to put the problems of essential surgery at the heart of the global health agenda offers a rallying call – Universal access to safe and affordable surgical and anaesthesia care for all when needed.

5 billion Lancet

According to this report five billion people cannot access safe surgery when they need it, with 33 million others facing catastrophic expenditures paying for surgery and anaesthesia annually.

33 million - Lancet

There are huge challenges ahead but the dedication of people like Jaiswal is what keeps us going here at Lifebox. We are committed to the distribution of essential monitoring equipment, education and training – to saving lives though safer surgery.

To learn more about what we do click here.

What’s the craic?

For the third year running, Lifebox ran to sign up and attend the Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland Conference – now in its 90th year, dignified and dedicated as ever!

More than 1,500 Rotarians from across the country gathered in sunny Belfast at the Waterfront Conference Centre, a grand venue with its toes on the edge of the beautiful River Lagan. They came for a weekend of talks, presentations, voting – and of course to support worthy causes both in the UK and around the world.

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We were thrilled to share our safer surgery story, and to stand amongst a number of great organisations, including our good friends Mercy Ships, who we’ve recently worked with in Madagascar.

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There are two important things we’ve learnt about Rotarians over the last few years: firstly, they’re a network of enthusiast, caring individuals with a passion to support communities around the world. From providing humanitarian assistance to fundraising for local hospices, Rotary clubs and members engage with a diverse range of community issues.

Secondly, Rotarians appreciate practical initiatives – and we are not too humble to admit that the Lifebox pulse oximeter was a crowd pleaser at this year’s conference! Rotarians beelined to our stand to get their blood oxygen saturation checked, lured by the bright yellow box in middle of the table.

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Most had a number of questions about our work, summed up in typical Irish style: What’s the craic? (No translation necessary for the initiated and quick clarification for the rest of you!)

Our response: safer surgery of course.

As word spread about the pulse oximeter, thanks to the help of Lifebox champions/dedicated Rotarians/proud parents Lindsay and Barbara Bashford, more and more people visited our stand to learn how this vital piece of equipment is saving lives.

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Since 2011, Lifebox has distributed nearly 9000 pulse oximeters to hospitals in 90 countries – working with anaesthetists, surgeons and healthcare professionals across low and high resource settings to ensure that more communities have access to safer surgery.

Thanks to Rotarians’ generous support, more pulse oximeters are now whizzing across the globe to hospitals where they are desperately needed. We are closing the pulse oximetry gap slowly but surely, and we won’t stop until every operating theatre in a low-resource setting has this essential monitoring tool, the training to use it appropriately, and the safety systems in place that keep patients safe.

We had a wonderful time in Belfast meeting all the Rotarians who are helping us to make safe surgery happen, finding new Rotary friends and learning about the diverse range of projects they support. We hope they enjoyed meeting us too.

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Here’s to an even sunnier conference – and a bigger beach – in Bournemouth next year!