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Case Study - Benoit Beauve


Benoit Beauve is a Consultant Anaesthetist and has been at RMCH for more than three years. He first came over from Belgium as a fellow and liked it so much he stayed! However, he was not content to permanently lay his routes in Manchester and has volunteered for humanitarian missions in Kabul in Afghanistan and Makeni, Africa.


Benoit had always been interested in taking part in some humanitarian work and contacted one of his counterparts at Great Ormond Street Hospital who told him about an opportunity in Africa. A retired plastic surgeon had established a charity and was in desperate need of anaesthetist to accompany him on his latest mission. By sheer coincidence Benoit's holiday had been cancelled so this left him available to accompany Glaswegian Martyn Webster to Makeni, Africa for ten days in January 2010.  


Benoit worked in partnership with The Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation who set up the Hospital of the Holy Sprit, and worked in a dedicated wing. 


A clinic was organised on the first day to decide whether a procedure was needed and if it had to be under general anaesthetic or local anaesthetic. All the procedures needing a general anaesthetic were carried out the first week while Benoit was there and Martyn stayed another two weeks for the procedures under local anaesthetic. 


Patients mainly required skin grafts as they had had burns and some also were treated for Cleft Lip and Palate deformities. Mostly children but some adults were treated. 


Benoit said: "It was an opportunity to work in a different way and learn different skills from an anaesthetic point of view, and also to work with different people. It was a bit of a contradiction as we were using modern drugs, but older equipment. 


"I had the feeling that we made a difference for them. There were children who could not use their hands only because they had had a burn which had been left without treatment and there was one 14-year-old boy who had been bullied all his life because of a cleft lip, I’m convinced we made a difference to his quality of life." 


Once Benoit completed his first trip, he had the bug for volunteering and set about finding another opportunity. 


He said: "I was thinking about another humanitarian mission and came across one on the Internet. La Chaîne de l'Espoir is a project based in France and had organised a trip to Kabul in Afghanistan. It was a different type of project and nothing to do with war. It was a very different trip than Africa as here the facilities were almost modern and I was also there in a training capacity." 


Benoit went to Paris twice for preparation before travelling to Kabul where he was based in the French Medical Institute for Children, one of the city’s major hospitals which had been set up by Les Hopitaux de Paris. He was mainly involved with the spinal surgery, where some of the children had scoliosis to a huge extent. 


Benoit believes that all humanitarian missions are very short of anaesthetists as they are needed to support the majority of work carried out. He said: “You probably need to have a minimum of experience as there is not really a lot of back up or many other anaesthetists or physicians around to give you a hand and, in some places, the lack of facilities make it impossible to deal with major complications.  A careful selection of patients and procedures is then essential.” 


Benoit added: "Planning is an essential part. You need to know exactly what project you are going for, what will be asked of you, what equipment will be there, what you need to bring etc.  From an anaesthetic point of view, you could be unable to proceed just because one essential thing is missing.  It is quite common in the NHS to come across people who have done humanitarian work so you need to talk to colleagues if you wanted to get started with humanitarian work. There are also several websites where you can obtain significant information."


Although Benoit feels the benefits of volunteering certainly outweigh the negatives, he advised that certain projects can be expensive as some charities pay for flights and accommodation, but others ask you to fund yourself. Also missions in countries affected by war can be quite restrictive in terms of leaving your base.  He said: “It is an opportunity not only to experience another culture and help people, but also to gain experience in your profession."