Two years ago I went to Brazil as part of a “hernia mission”, doing pro bono hernia surgery in Matto
Grosso, which is in central Brazil. This was arranged by Hernia International, the brainchild of
Professor Andrew Kingsnorth of the United Kingdom. Surgeons from around the world volunteer
their services for various missions, most of these venturing into the African subcontinent. My
interest is in laparoscopic repair, particularly for inguinal hernias, which are by far the most common
type of hernia. None of the African missions have the equipment necessary for laparoscopic surgery.
In fact, on some of the African missions there is often very little equipment of any sort. However, the
missions in Brazil do have the laparoscopic toys, so Andrew arranged for me to join the mission
there in 2016. The majority of surgeons were from various parts of Brazil, but there was also a
surgeon from Queensland and another from Italy. My Portuguese is non-existent, but fortunately
the Brazilian surgeons mostly had an adequate command of English. My partner is an anaesthetist
and she was able to be involved in a meaningful fashion at the top end of the table. A very enjoyable
time was had by all.
A month ago we returned from our second Brazil mission, this time to the city of Jaoa Pessoa, in the
north east of the country. This city has about 2M inhabitants and has the dubious distinction of
being ranked no30 in the world for the most murders per capita. That said, at no time did we feel
anxious on this front. We operated at three different public hospitals, working considerably harder
than on the first mission! A total of 170 hernias were repaired (20 by me), this time the international
presence being ourselves, A French-Australian surgeon and a retired surgeon from Austria. Several
of the Brazilian surgeons we met in 2016 came on this mission also, so it was great to renew
acquaintances. Again, we were well looked after by the Brazilian Hernia Society, which was strongly
supported by the surgical equipment companies (accommodation, most meals, transfers).
Post-mission, rest and recovery took place in Ecuador.
Will we go again? Maybe in another two years. Possibly I might even consider shelving the
laparoscope for a venture into darkest Africa….