Robert Lusby - A rushed preparation

Running time
2 min 20 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs


We had briefings and we had the legal aspects of what we were doing and what we could and couldn't do, which I think was very important. And it played out certainly while we were there when we were stopped in transit at one stage. It could have been a very threatening situation, but our protectors were very disciplined and didn't do anything silly and we got through it all.

Bob. But the legal aspect was important. The medical side, essentially they saw us as going to look after the UN troops. But in fact, we looked after the locals who were horribly injured by mines and other things. So the preparation for what we really needed, for instance, paediatric equipment and that it wasn't there. But Peter Tralaggan who was my anaesthetist, he's a cardiac anaesthetist at Prince Alfred had the foresight to think about what we might need. And he brought a lot of paediatric stuff as well. And a lot of the operations we did were on children.

I think if you read the history, it was a very rushed preparation for everyone. But what they were relying on the specialists, and there was myself as a surgeon, there was an orthopaedic surgeon, there was an intensivist and an anaesthetist. So they really wanted our expertise in the field that we practised. And because the Australian military isn't big enough to have full-time surgeons, et cetera, anaesthetists, they always had to rely on the reserve and it was a good thing because we had people who were operating in the belly and the chest and the legs every day of the week.

Whereas if you're a surgeon in the army, you're doing ankle injuries, and knee injuries, not to detract from them, but it's much lighter surgery. They're not so familiar with the belly as they found out actually in the first wave they sent a lovely fellow who was a full-time army surgeon. And he was clearly out of his depth.

Robert Lusby - Settling in

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