Ealing Hospital surgeon Sala Abdalla is off at the end of the year to make her fourth overseas trip to West Africa and help people who can’t afford to have life changing and saving surgical procedures.
Ms Abdalla, who came to the UK as a ten-year-old refugee from Sudan, is the founder of charity Operation International UK (OIUK). She will head a team of surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists helping people in Ghana to have procedures such as hernias, gallbladder and stomach operations.
A previous visit saw 500 people waiting outside a rural hospital for the team’s arrival including one woman who had travelled eight hours and was sleeping in the hospital grounds.
Commenting on a previous visit, Ms Abdalla said: “We only had one week of surgeries, so triaged as many patients as possible and carried out close to 150 operations in five days. It does make you reflect on how much more efficient we could be with both our resources and time in the NHS. We take so much for granted but when you have less to work with you become far more focused and resourceful.”
Ms Abdalla chose to become a doctor following what happened to her father in Sudan who passed away from a heart condition after being driven to a succession of hospitals where he was told there wasn’t a suitable clinician or equipment available until it was too late.
She said: “It was a tragic and a completely unnecessary death which is played out in many parts of the world because basic healthcare isn’t readily available to many people. It is something I have felt passionate about since I was a child and my reason for becoming a doctor.”
The charity will be off to Ghana at the end of the year but Ms Abdella’s long-term goal is to create a pool of clinical volunteers that can come together under one umbrella organisation.
She revealed: “I have met a lot of clinical colleagues who are interested in volunteering but don’t know how or where to go about getting involved. I’ve met with the Royal College of Surgeons and am hopeful that we coordinate our efforts.”