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A slow start for surgery in Cambodia, but . . .

March 6, 2009

Yes it has been a slow start for surgery in Phnom Penh, but soon that will change.

First surgery day Friday; wow! Although the surgical procedure was similar to that in North America, the technique was quite different. Very slow to start the day. Rounds very short. Ice packs for post-op (hey, it’s a good idea!). During the surgery, nurses talking on their cell phones in the OR. Patient waiting in OR for an hour before surgeons arrive. Cautery hardly used. No gowns. All the nurses were men. I’ll write more on the whole experience once I’ve been in the OR more, but so far it’s been incredible.

We will be very very busy next week, with Dr. Sarom’s general practice in the mornings, some of his private clinic work, and as well, Operation Smile is coming to town for 9 days! I don’t know yet if there is a medical student with them, but hopefully I will get to be involved in many of the patient assessments and subsequent maxillofacial surgeries. Another bonus is that it is in Phnom Penh, whereas Operation First is on the outskirts and it can be expensive to get there.

I’ve done my best at bargaining, and can get a tuk-tuk for $3 one way (about 40 minutes). I try not to take motos [aka sitting on the back of a motorbike with no helmet] because of the fear of head injuries and also many tourists get burned when the exhaust pipe gets very hot and their calf is right beside it. If I come back, I would bring a proper motorcycle helmet. The ones here are of low quality as there are no particular standards, given the law to wear them was only introduced this year.

Monday is some kind of public holiday, so Dr. Sarom suggested I use the long weekend to travel. I’m at the beach in Shihanouk Ville, in the south of the province. There’s a thunderstorm right now, but earlier in the day we had fun in the sun. I’m with a traveler from France who was on my bus here. I get to practice my French with him. I was very proud that I could discuss Rose Charities, Somaly Mam, and other complicated subjects (although my friend was very patient and helped me with the vocabulary along the way).

Glad to have a friend as I miss everyone back home dearly. All the little girls selling fruit and bracelets are fun to talk to. I feel like the only person who uses sunscreen on a regular basis, as I’m pretty albino-esque. The girls say “where you from!? skin soooo white!” and then thy touch my arms and legs, as if I’m a doll. They practice English with me and I practice Khmer with them. I only know a handful of words but I will remedy this on my next bus ride. Speaking of which, I’d better go and book the ticket to Kep, if I’m going to be able to go spelunking in the caves near there tomorrow!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2009 1:00 am

    Sounds like you’re having a great time Jess, but where are the pictures?!

    • March 8, 2009 7:04 pm

      i don’t have my camera cable with me 😦
      must find a cafe with memory card reader, but I haven’t yet!

  2. March 8, 2009 10:03 am

    you are SO COOL

    AND spelunking.

  3. Jenn permalink
    March 8, 2009 11:20 pm

    Yay for spelunking!

    I got a bit of the “oooh, look you’re so pale” bit when I was in India in the markets… mostly it was the hair though. The red stuck out 😛

    and TUK TUKS!! I love those! So much fun!

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