A desire to travel and use her nursing skills to help those less fortunate than herself took Jennifer Woodburn to Cambodia
Ms Woodburn has conducted hospital and ward assessments, as well as helping to distribute emergency airway boxes designed to help patients breathe and improve their chances of survival.Transform Healthcare Cambodia is a charity that was set up to relieve sickness and establish good health for the benefit of the public. It comprises a group of dedicated individuals who have given their time to help people in need. One of these is Jennifer Woodburn, an intensive care nurse at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
“I had always been interested in seeing and understanding other countries and cultures,” she says, “so I decided in the second year of my nursing degree that I wanted to go to a country where charitable work was needed.”
Ms Woodburn looked into the work of several charities but none caught her eye – until she saw a poster at work advertising the charity THC. This compelled Ms Woodburn to email Sue Smith, executive chief nurse of University Hospitals of Morecambe
‘I decided in the second year of my nursing degree that I wanted to go to a country where charitable work was needed’
Bay Foundation Trust and founder and director of THC. Ms Smith would also be the leader of Ms Woodburn’s team in Cambodia that would soon be established.
“I am ashamed to say I had little knowledge of the country so I had to do a bit of research,” Ms Woodburn says. “I read up on the horrors the country had suffered and the work THC had been doing recently. I decided I could
help as part of the charity, and I am so glad I did.”
Once Ms Woodburn had agreed to join the charity her feelings fluctuated between fear and excitement.
Once the journey had started, fear turned quickly to excitement and an eagerness to help the people of Cambodia as much as possible. Ms Woodburn joined an incredible team of nurses, doctors, other charity members and translators.“I had never travelled anywhere alone so to go halfway around the world to Cambodia was a big step for me,” she says. “But I felt my fears were minor in comparison with the hardship the people of Cambodia faced on a daily basis, along with the past they had survived.”
’I had never travelled anywhere alone so to go halfway around the world to Cambodia was a big step for me’
“Everyone on the team has different strengths and we’re so dedicated to helping the people of Cambodia,” she says. “Two of the team want to spend their retirement helping in the hospitals of Cambodia, while another developed workbooks for teaching lessons. Yet another team member never stopped working – taking notes, photos and videos to raise awareness of this small but incredible charity’s work. And then there are the translators – they did not have a medical background but still spent all of their spare time revising and making notes for the next teaching sessions.”
With the incredible amount of talent in just one team Ms Woodburn fits right in – she even helped to save a life while carrying out her other duties for the charity.
“I was walking the wards with translator Kim Leng when we saw a patient deteriorating,” she remembers.
Doctors saved the patient by inserting a Guedel airway – a skill they had been taught by Ms Woodburn and the other nurses just the day before.
Although the airway had been inserted, the patient still required high oxygen flow and staff were only able to find a cannula. While Kim Leng identified the patient’s ”see-saw” breathing, the nurses were unable to find even a face mask. Suggesting an electrocardiogram, Ms Woodburn stepped in to help the doctor while Kim Leng ran to the training room to get a non-rebreather mask, which helped the patient’s oxygen levels rise.
“I could not stand back and watch when I knew I could help,” Ms Woodburn says. “But I cannot take responsibility for saving them; it was a team effort.”
Having now returned to the UK she says, “it is noticeable how little people know of such an amazing and inspirational country. I would like to thank the charity for the experience and I hope to return with them again soon.”