Challenge gets heart beating

Bruce Wicksteed and the medical team found the situation in the Philippines very confronting after the typhoon struck.
Bruce Wicksteed and the medical team found the situation in the Philippines very confronting after the typhoon struck.

Mr Wicksteed spent 12 days in Tacloban, which bore the full brunt of typhoon Haiyan, as part of a 37-person strong Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) made up of surgeons, nurses and physicians that helped more than 2700 patients receive medical attention following the devastation.

‘I was part of Bravo Team, who came in after the first couple of weeks but it still looked like a war zone,’ Mr Wicksteed recalled.

‘Everything had been flattened by the wind and that was followed by a sea surge so whatever wasn’t blown over was eventually washed away.’

At times harrowing and challenging, Mr Wicksteed called the overall experience ‘fantastic’ and had no doubt he would do it all again ‘in a heartbeat’.

‘It was challenging on many fronts but not so much clinically,’ he said.

‘The environment wasn’t the best to set up a clinic, it was humid and hot and we were living on ration packs with no hot water, our own water filtration and generators powering basics.

‘It took a few days to adjust because some aspects were confronting because my career has been metropolitan based and this was my first experience well out of my comfort zone,’ he added

Among the most extreme injuries were amputation of limbs and delivering babies, but Mr Wicksteed had nothing but praise and admiration for the way people continued to go about life.

‘The Filipino people are very resilient and they just got on with it; it was very humbling,’ he said.

He returns to Darwin, from where the AUSMAT team departed for Tacloban, on February 20 for an official Federal Government debriefing and thank-you function, before heading off on a six-week research journey as part of winning a Churchill Fellowship.

Mr Wicksteed will visit Auckland, Salt Lake City, Edmonton (Canada), Stockholm, Edinburg and London, where he will research different models of paediatric retrieval with a view to establishing a service in WA.