What attracted you to go into medicine?
It was the opposite of what my father wanted me to do! I wanted to get some independence.
What branch of medicine are you in?
I’m a retired registered nurse and was an Officer in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC).
Why did you set up the Trust:
Roger and Pat were volunteering at The Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled at Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh because of Roger’s work as a fundraiser for a British charity specialising in spinal injuries in 1995. Roger was trying to raise money for CRP and we travelled to CRP in 1995 to meet the director Valerie Taylor and I realised that Valerie needed specialist advice for the severe spinal cases. Roger gave an address at the Royal Society of Medicine at a conference, and there we meet Colonel David Vassallo who showed Pat and Roger the first Telemedical program he was building to obtain medical advice from a distance – he offered this to Pat free of charge to help the Doctors in the developing world. Pat and Roger then started the Trust in 1998 with 8 consultants, all military to begin with and Valerie and CRP were their first case in 1999. The Trust then grew by word of mouth.
In 2004 Pat and Roger went into Iraq after being invited by a British Army doctor at Shaibah Military Base to help set up Telemedical links for the local Iraqi communities to access urgent medical help and to support the re-building of Iraq. 50 hospitals with referring doctors came on initially from Iraq.
Why is the Trust important?
It supports local communities in the developing world to access world class health care, often with cases which otherwise would be abandoned due to lack of available health. It supports learning, by teaching the doctors in situ how to handle these cases and therefore progressing their knowledge and that can then be passed on across their own country – all of that with a very low carbon footprint! It helps people from very low income communities get healthcare for free; it supports our specialists doctors by widening their knowledge with cases that they would not see in the developed world. We now have 78 countries and over 500 specialists who work with the Trust.
Can you tell us about some of your Memorable Cases?
2005: Iraq, a 35year old man was shot in Basra, he had developed necrotising fasciitis by the time the Trust was informed and had been left to die – it took 4 specialists, one in South Africa, one in the USA, one in the UK and one in Australia to treat him, he recovered and went back to his family – for free.
In Tristan da Cunha, a Bulgarian Seaman, who spoke no English, was brought into the port on a cargo ship having fallen 10 metres into the hull, he had broken his pelvis, spine – facial bones, basically smashed to pieces and had internal bleeding – the local doctor was directed by a UK Trauma specialist and the Bulgarian was eventually stabilized and sent out on another ship to Cape Town where he was able to access further medical care.
In Tibet, a missionary developed a severe Inner Ear infection which spread into her mastoid bone, it took 8 specialists and the SCT arranged to get her to Thailand for further recuperation.
How would you like people to help the Trust?
Spread the Word! We would like to help more people, and although we are currently in 34/53 Commonwealth countries, we know we could help more, and therefore we would like more countries – not just the Commonwealth to participate.
By Georgina Liley
(Georgina Liley is the eldest daughter of Pat and Roger Swinfen and runs the social media for the Trust. Georgina has been involved with the Trust since it’s inception and was a speaker at the 4th International Conference on Successes and Failures in Telehealth, Brisbane, 2004).