Last week, a delegation of Israeli surgeons faced a daunting challenge when a general power failure interrupted a life-saving surgery they were performing in Ethiopia. But thanks to their quick thinking and resourcefulness, the team successfully completed the procedure and saved the life of their 3-year-old patient.
A humanitarian delegation from Haifa’s Rambam Healthcare Campus had traveled to Addis Ababa to perform a number of surgical procedures at St. Peter’s Specialized Hospital. As part of a medical collaboration between the two hospitals, Rambam periodically sends delegations to St. Peter’s to do procedures Ethiopian doctors cannot do themselves.
This delegation was primarily doing head and neck operations and gynecological treatments.
The blackout occurred without warning, and a backup generator failed to start, leaving the operating room without power.
Without wasting a moment, the Israeli and Ethiopian medical teams sprang into action. Led by Dr. Yotam Shkedy, director of Rambam’s Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Unit, they used the flashlights from their mobile phones to illuminate the surgical site.
And with the electric ventilator no longer functioning, the Ethiopian anesthesia team, assisted by Dr. Vasile Recea, deputy director of Rambam’s anesthesia department, manually ventilated the child through the nose.
“Power outages are a part of life in these countries,” said Shkedy. “But usually there is a backup generator that automatically turns on. That did not happen in this case. We had to adapt quickly because our young patient was lying on the operating table and we were in the middle of the procedure.”
Despite the difficult circumstances, the operation continued under the improvised lighting of Shkedy’s surgical headlight and the smartphone flashlights of the medical staff. Power came back on after 15 minutes.
“Lots of thoughts cross your mind when working in third-world countries, but working in an operating room without electricity never crossed my mind,” said Shkedy. “Happily, our patient’s life was never in danger.”