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Out of my depth in East Timor


“I vont to do an emergency caesar, quick!” Andre’s voice crackled into my heavy, hand-held emergency telephone, which I had not yet mastered. Andre was a tall, good-natured Dutch general practitioner who had been working at Dili National Hospital for over a year and did much of the obstetrics when the hospital lacked a specialist obstetrician (a frequent occurrence). I had warmed to him immediately; he was one of the very few people employed in the hospital who spoke English, and he had an air of confidence that was reassuring. He told me that the operating room was already preparing for the procedure, he would be there in 30 minutes, and he hoped I could have the patient anaesthetised and ready by that time.

It was my second day as the only anaesthetist at the only tertiary referral hospital in East Timor, and I had just discovered that, at that time (August 2001), I was the only specialty trained anaesthetist in the country. I was already finding my job challenging.



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