In a series of five articles, we share stories from Gift of the Givers volunteers in their own words as the organisation marks its 25th year of serving humanity. Dr Livan Meneses-Turino is an orthopaedic surgeon and in this, the final article, he describes Gift of the Givers as a family. He joined in 2010, and has never regretted serving mankind.
Dr Livan Meneses-Turino: HOD of Orthopaedic Surgery in Northdale Hospital, Pietermaritzburg
We are very often faced with decisions that are considered life or death. I hope and pray that those decisions are forgiven.
In Haiti, we were faced with many casualties needing urgent attention. I remember a young man who had been trapped under the rubble. His left arm was severly damaged. Dr Duwayne Carlson, an American orthopaedic surgeon, spent the entire night trying to save his limb but could not stop the bleeding. My team mate, Dr Johnny de Beer, decided to perform an amputation of the patient’s upper limb to save his life. Carlson was devastated, but we prayed together and he came to understand that our mission involved the need to make aggressive decisions quickly to save lives.
I came to South Africa from Cuba in 2001 as part of a programme to bring Cuban doctors to work in areas where doctors were scarce. My first mission with Gift of the Givers was to Haiti in 2010, and I’ve been a part of this family since then and have never regretted a single minute spent serving our fellow humans.
I am a trauma doctor and orthopaedic surgeon, these are my modest skills, but I have been an assistant nurse, organiser, handyman. Like everyone else, I am there to do whatever is needed on a mission.
If I am away from the hospital, whether I’m on holiday or abroad at conferences or congresses, I let Imtiaaz know so he can contact me in case of emergencies. My bags are always ready because I am among the first group that goes. I save my leave days to use for missions, but if I am called, my management board and colleagues are quick to back me. It is always difficult to leave our families behind but it is our duty to serve, and we could not do it without the help and understanding of the people around us.
Its something I see with Gift of the Givers, we give without expecting anything in return. We serve, no we are blessed, to have a leader like Dr Sooliman who was sent from above. [He] is the most humble and dedicated person I have ever come across.
I learnt in Haiti that to be succesful in what we do we need to be organised and prepared, and not just from a professional perspective but psychologically and spiritually as well, and Dr Sooliman is the calm centre that makes that possible.
I pray that I am given the strength to continue to serve. Not only because we offer assistance where and whenever it is needed, but also because I learn so much and we leave behind a legacy. Going to Palestine in 2014 was one of the best things that has happened to me. There were 100 volunteers and I was one of only 10 that were allowed to enter. I was able to train Palestinian surgeon on how to do a pelvic surgery, a skill that had never been developed there.
Another example came from our service in Nepal after the earthquake in 2015. When we arrived we found that surgeons were struggling with the number of casualties suffering from pelvic fracture injuries. Pelvic surgery is my sub speciality, so we decied the best way forward was to teach local surgeons how to treat this trauma. In the beginning we operated together with Nepalese surgeons, but soon they were doing cases on their own. I was at the European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (EFORT) Congress in Austria this year and saw a paper about pelvic and acetabular surgery written by doctors from the Nepal Medical College Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu. That was such a heartwarming surprise.
Our first profile was on medical co-ordinator, Dr YM Essack. Click here to read more.
To find out how beekeeper, Owen Williams, has contributed to the organisation, click here.
Emily Thomas, who works in logitistics at Gift of the Givers shares her story.
Ahmed Bham is the head of search and rescue. Read his story here.
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