For Deakin University medical students, Tara and Sarah, travelling to Timor-Leste to observe the volunteer medical team as they perform heart checks and surgery during Operation GoodHearts has been an invaluable experience and something that will influence them for the rest of their practising lives.
“The last few days have been absolutely amazing. The medical care in East Timor is very different to what we have at home, so while the fundamentals of health conditions are the same, the difference in resources and resource allocation means the way they approach healthcare here is very different – it’s been very eye opening," says Sarah.
“Every single person who’s come on this trip is passionate about universal access to healthcare and the fact that they come here and do what they do because they genuinely care about people who are less fortunate than us in Australia…it’s amazing to see,” she says.
For Sarah, what struck her most of all is how in Australia health and healthcare can be taken for granted.
“I’m really impressed at how willing people are to come and stay all day because they have to use those opportunities to preserve their healthcare in the same way,” she says.
Sarah and Tara have been inspired by being able to watch the team performing surgery.
“To see something that’s so fixable and such an achievable surgery for this to happen here to change these children’s lives…they’d never live a full life otherwise and now they can,” says Sarah.
For Tara, one moment in particular has stood out over her time working here, when she observed a young girl having a Patent Ductus Arteriousus (PDA) operation. Tara stayed with the girl until after the surgery when her dad came in – as soon as the girl woke up she put her arms around her dad and it was very emotional.
“I shed a few tears in the corner of the room because everyone was putting in so much effort but you realise that this is the reason they do it for, that ultimately this dad loves his daughter and because of what we were able to give her she can live until 70 or 80 – that for me was quite a good moment, to be able to see the tangible effect of what we do,” she says.
For both Tara and Sarah, it’s moments like these that fuel their desire to continue to work in aid to find more people to come through clinics, screen them early and make a difference.
“It’s really satisfying work because it’s so valuable,” says Sarah.