i was eating tea in front of tv last night watching a recording of desperate housewives (yes sad i know). i intended to turn the tv off but the programme that was on caught our attention and we ended up glued to superdoctors. it was a documentary looking at medicine practice in the developing world where the resources are simply not available to carry out western type surgery and practice.
the doctor being followed was steve mannion. he is clearly a brilliant doctor. but he has chosen to live his life alternating between doing two weeks working for the NHS in blackpool and then two weeks in the developing world in places such as papua new guinea, and malawi. the programme was following some of his work in malawi.
he loves ideas and innovation and had a few astonishing things he did.
- a skin graft where they only really had a skalpel available. he had read about a technique in the war where a piece of skin would be removed and then chopped into small pieces and those little pieces spread over the area needing new skin and the body is such that the skin would grow and join up from those little pieces.
- creating an antiseptic to put on infected sores made up of vaseline, sugar and glycrine - i.e. cheap readily available materials. he got the idea for this from an old practice using honey but honey was too expensive so figured that sugar is what is in jam and preserves it by killing bacteria so it ought to work!
- and then club foot - he piloted a technique that has now become accepted practice in the uk - ponseti method - after a lot of resistance. rather than operating, the foot on a child is simply put in a series of 5 casts that gradually move the foot back to its straight/flat position. again he had read about this as an old forgotten practice somewhere.
he thinks outside the box, searches back in his tradition finding forgotten wisdom, makes do with whatever resources are to hand and this scarcity is what provokes new practice, and spends his life on behalf of those who are poor working and training local people - an absolutely inspiring man and bit of tv (yes even better than desperate housewives).