OPT: A Surgeon's Story - John Beavis

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"As a medical student I was always interested in the management of trauma and, in particular, had an academic fascination for intensive-care work. I specialised in orthopaedics and trauma with spinal and paediatric interests. My work suddenly took a different track when, in the early 90's, following a heart operation and some return of symptoms, I volunteered to work as a civilian in a Bosnian hospital during the Balkans conflict. I thought I did not have much to lose".

John conducted war surgery in the State Hospital Sarajevo, before pursuing a career as a general trauma surgeon. He was subsequently awarded a Bosnian Medal of Honour for work in Hospitals during and after the war.

Why is Primary Trauma Care so important?

"Following a serious injury patients who will live if given proper specialist care often die because they are not given immediate treatment to secure breathing and circulation. There are really simple procedures that can be followed, even before arriving in a hospital, to ensure that the right treatment is given on the spot.

Primary Trauma Care (PTC) is a system that is designed to adapt to different conditions around the world and is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It teaches, among many other skills, the importance of maintaining an airway, stopping any bleeding and replacing blood where necessary".

Following the Balkans war, John helped set up the Charity IDEALS (International Disaster and Emergency Aid with Long Term Support), which is dedicated to providing relief to victims of manmade and natural catastrophes throughout the world.

PTC in Gaza

In August 2009 IDEALS Trustees Sir Terence English and John Beavis visited Gaza on behalf of Primary Trauma Care UK supported by MAP.

The purpose was to meet with members of the medical profession and assess whether PTC was suitable for the area. It was decided that a system of PTC is crucial and there is a great deal IDEALS can do to support Gaza's medical professionals. The memories of the Sarajevo siege were revived as it became obvious that the plight of the Palestinians was matched by their determination to "carry on regardless, with courage, good humour and generosity".

In November 2009, Dr Andy Ferguson, IDEALS Technical Advisor, and John Beavis, returned as an advanced party to prepare for a full PTC course and were joined five days later by a team consisting of three surgeons - including Sir Terence - and two anaesthetists to undertake two main courses and one instructors course. From this a total of more than forty doctors and nurses were trained and sixteen were appointed as Instructors to lead the development of PTC in Gaza.

"August was my first visit to Gaza. Although there were no emergency cases remaining from the Israeli attacks there is a clear need for a uniform system of PTC. There are a host of day-to-day hazards across the territory. These range from people living in unstable damaged housing, motorcyclists riding without helmets and very poor road safety, with children especially vulnerable. In addition, the perilous state of the fuel and gas supply to people's homes makes them susceptible to explosions.

"The MAP course is a real benefit for the doctors and nurses working in Gaza whether they work in hospitals or in the community. It provides a uniform approach at an international accredited level and, importantly, allows them to train the next generation. MAP is also working to train non-medical personnel in PTC, greatly expanding its ability to save lives".