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Wisdom Musonda Chelu

Chief Anaesthetic Officer

Wisdom Musonda Chelu is a Chief Anaesthetic Officer at the Ministry of Health in     Lusaka, Zambia. He is part of the Brighton-Lusaka Anaesthesia project in partnership with the Ministry of Health (Zambia), Lifebox Foundation, Brighton-Lusaka Health Link and Primary Trauma Care Foundation. The partnership aims to improve delivery of safe anaesthesia through capacity building of health workers and to implement (Brighton-Lusaka Anaesthesia Project) the training programme of Bachelor of Science Degree in Clinical Anaesthesia in partnership with Levy Mwanawasa Medical University.

As a young boy, I read medical related books and lived around medical doctors. I would watch as they were called out to homes to see someone who was sick, and the work seemed very thrilling and important. I did a three year training programme as a Clinical Officer General with a Diploma in Clinical Medical Sciences at the College of Health Sciences in Lusaka. I had a keen interest in surgery, and whenever I was in theatre, I assisted the Clinical Officer Anaesthetist. I learnt about anaesthesia through that process and then decided that I would specialize in clinical anaesthesia.

Obstetric anaesthesia is associated with higher risk than routine care, and requires specialized training for healthcare professionals to enable them to work safely and efficiently with the patients. THET supported the Ministry of Health to train anaesthetic providers in Safe Obstetric Anaesthesia with WHO Surgical Check List. I have been organising and coordinating SAFE- Anaesthesia Courses through Education supported by THET, Zambia and Lifebox Foundation and so far about 150 anaesthetic providers have been trained and 125 pulse oximeters donated to needy hospitals.

I recall a particular case with a patient who had a bad obstetric history, her newborns used to die upon delivery due to severe fetal asphyxia.  Due to the training I had received, when I saw this patient, I knew that I was to give her spinal anaesthesia and put her in left lateral position to avoid aortal caval compression to lessen the distress. I administered her oxygen by mask for her to breathe to improve oxygen saturation in blood (intrauterine fetal resuscitation). After three minutes from the start of surgery, the male baby was extracted and immediately after giving oxytocin, the newborn was resuscitated. Later, as I monitored the mother, she was in tears and told me that is the first time she has heard her own baby cry. I was humbled.

The courses add value to our work as anaesthetists, we are able to learn and develop knowledge and skills through sharing with others from different hospitals. I have seen and experienced that partnerships are key in developing and improving the provision of safe anaesthesia in Low-Middle Income Countries. We need partnerships to help in anaesthesia human resource development.