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Morgan helps Fijian children smile again

Morgan Haines of Tanunda has seen the highs and lows of working in reconstructive surgery in resource-poor Fiji.

She has just returned from a medical placement in Fiji, working with charities Avant and Interplast and Morgan tells how her trip gave her an insight into the often challenging world of reconstructive surgery in a resource-limited
environment.

Mogan is currently in her fifth year of her medical studies at UNSWs Rural Clinical School's Port Macquarie campus, where she will also be for her sixth year.

Her placement in March was in Labasa on the main island of Fiji.

This placement was a week-long placement which was won through an annual competition put on by Avant (medical indemnity insurer) and Interplast (charity).

Morgan spoke about some challenges and highlights related to her placement.

"The resources are limited in this hospital, which is one of Fiji's largest. Without the hundreds of kilos of gear that Interplast bring over from Australia, most of the procedures the surgeons performed would not be remotely possible.

"Adding to the lack of resources is the problem that there are only a couple of fully-trained surgeons and anaesthetists in the area.

"Challenges and highlights were mostly emotionally charged (I can live without warm water or clean hair for a week!). In clinic, the gentleman with massive lymphedema - so large his leg was probably three to four times the size of his other leg - was inoperable. Even in Australia with all the correct equipment and best surgeons, the operation would be difficult.

"Other sad cases were turned away for similar reasons.

"The highlight was certainly seeing the cleft lip and palate repairs. Seeing children with such\significant visible deformities having the trajectory of their lives change was pretty remarkable.

"Even more tear jerking was seeing the parents and families see their toddlers post-operatively... some parents fainted and it was such an emotional rush for all.

"This trip demonstrated how a cost-effective charity doesn't always exist in the form of vaccine. If done right - as is the case with Interplast - charities can have high-impact and life-changing solutions for people who are less fortunate than us.

"In the short time I was there, I was able to gain a brief insight into how things run in Labasa.

"This is the "real Fiji", not at all like the island experience many Australian tourists experience.

"Mainland Fiji is very poor and, as I have mentioned, the resources - both tangible and skill-based -are severely lacking. This is why trips by specialist charities like Interplast are so imperative," said Morgan.

Story published in The Leader - Barossa Valley, July 20 2016