Open Heart International volunteers provide medical services to developing nations.

nurse leaves comfort zone
nurse leaves comfort zone

SUE Bedford, a paediatric nurse at Armadale Kelmscott Memorial Hospital, left the comfortable surrounds of her workplace on August 1 to spend two weeks helping some of the world's most vulnerable children in Papua New Guinea.

For more than 15 years, Mrs Bedford has joined a team of 50 medical professionals from across Australia to volunteer with Open Heart International, an organisation which provides specialist healthcare to people living in developing countries.

The organisation performs heart surgery on children in Papua New Guinea each year.

It is the only time children in PNG have the opportunity to undergo surgery at a public hospital.

Mrs Bedford said the team from Open Heart International, which includes surgeons, cardiologists, anaesthetists, physiotherapists and pathology technicians, take over over an entire ward and intensive care unit at Port Moresby General Hospital where they do up to 60 surgeries in the time they are there.

Parents trek with their children for days for a chance to be assessed by a cardiologist and have surgery.

‘We assist in providing training, so the local medical staff can provide specialist medical treatment on their own and establish independent, sustainable and specialty surgical programs in their own country,’ she said.

‘Open Heart International has been working in PNG for almost 20 years, but things over there take time ” they lack the funding ” but every time we go back, there is something a bit more positive.’

During the 10-hour shifts, Mrs Bedford is required to work while volunteering at Port Moresby General Hospital, she provides before and after care for the children undergoing heart surgery and trains the nursing staff.

‘You have to put the blinkers on and be a team player.

‘if you think you’re going to change them (nursing staff) in eight days, you’re there for the wrong reasons.’

Despite the hospital conditions, which sometimes include locked linen cupboards, overcrowding, the presence of armed guards and the threat of malaria, Mrs Bedford said she enjoyed going back each year.

‘There are so many success stories, you see the kids running around the next day after surgery.’