Nurse Anesthetist Students Join Medical Mission in Nigeria

August 19, 2022

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In June of 2022, thanks to $4000 raised by Denver Health’s Anesthesia Department, two Denver Health nurse anesthetists and doctoral students, Adal Wolde (pictured in green) and Yannick Macaulay (pictured in light blue), were able to participate in a life-changing medical mission in Nigeria.

During the five days they spent in Big Warri, the team of eight volunteers lead by International Surgical Mission performed nearly 80 surgeries, including hernia repairs, lipomas removals, excisions and biopsies with extremely limited resources.

The experience itself was invaluable; allowing Wolde and Macaulay to gain vital hands-on clinical training, while also allowed them to learn so much from their colleagues which will help shape their knowledge and practice for future patients.

Putting Their Clinical Training to the Test

A nurse anesthetist, also called a CRNA, is an advanced practice registered nurse who is trained at a master level or doctoral level to provide anesthesia and care for patients during surgical procedures. The training to become a nurse anesthetist is very rigorous and requires thousands of hours of classroom and hands-on clinical training. Wolde and Macaulay are both in preparation to take their national board certification, which would allow them to carry the prestigious title of CRNA.

For Wolde, being in an environment without an anesthesia machine, which is typically used to sedate patients before surgeries, the most important assets became ingenuity, flexibility, and patience. He described the set-up as “bare bones,” compared with the first-world operating rooms he was used to.

Despite the challenges the providers faced, they made strong connections with the patients they were able to help. Wolde described one particularly memorable patient, a very polite and respectful ten-year-oldboy, who was put under local and ketamine sedation during a hernia repair surgery. With this kind of pain medicine, a patient remains awake during the procedure.

Wolde played music on his phone for the young patient to help distract from the surgery. Within a few verses, the child was “singing along with the choruses of each song until the end of his surgery.”

Continuing the Mission at Denver Health

“Experience, ingenuity, teamwork, perseverance and most of all, love, were necessary to carry out this initial, hopefully annual, mission.” said Wolde, who believed the trip was a life-altering experience. “The richness of community was palpable from the instant we arrived. Upon entering the village to the last tearful waves of goodbye, we were showered with gratitude from patients, their families, leaders of the community and royalty.”

Now back in Colorado, Wolde reflected on how his mission at Denver Health mirrors what he did abroad. “Denver Health is a hospital committed to, within their ability, servicing any and all patients in Colorado and the region … It is because of these values that I believe the culture at Denver Health aligned beautifully with the goals and values of the mission trip. I was able to take that level of kindness and openness with me to Big Warri and I believe the patients there felt that from me and the entire mission group.”


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