Robert Lusby - Settling in

Running time
3 min 54 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs


We went up to Darwin and then I think from Darwin we went to South Africa, to Johannesburg, I think. And then we flew in a Spanish Air Force flight to Rwanda, to Kigali. It was to our amazement that the Spanish Air Force was so big and it was big because it was engaged in UN work. It was much bigger than the Australian Air Force. And that was just a Herc that they flew us up in. Yeah. Yes. So that's how we got there and we were greeted by Wayne Ramsey, who was the Commander of the first round who we knew because he had been the Commander of the field hospital out at Ingleburn. He turned up with a couple of jeeps and an armed protection unit. That was the first time we realised we needed to be protected all the way. It was very nice to see him.

We were put into the Kigali General Hospital and we were billeted, if you could say that, in the bombed-out maternity wing. The whole place was shot up, the bullet wounds all over the building walls, all that sort of thing. All the glass had been blown out. I think the first night we slept in the boiler room, not that it was working. The place was a mess, but the engineers had been in there a few weeks or maybe six or eight weeks before and they'd cleaned out all the bodies and removed all the bloodstains from the operating theatre. There were big mass graves on the side. It was makeshift, but it was actually functional.

They'd, actually in a very short time, made it a functional area to work. And there were some wards with patients already because I was in, I think the third lot of specialists who went over. So it was about out of the second month, maybe into the third month of our experience there. We had a handover. Took into account what was there and they introduced me to a young boy of about 12 who was going to be on the operating list the next morning. And they said, "We've kept him for you." I said, "Well, that's very nice." The thing was that he had a shrapnel wound to his neck with a false aneurysm, a blow out of his carotid artery.

And in the real world, I was an international expert on carotid artery disease. But we didn't have x-rays or appropriate x-rays or anything else. We just went by clinical signs. But I was very pleased that the first case I did with theatre staff, that I wasn't all that familiar with, an environment I wasn't familiar with, but in an anatomical area that I was very familiar with, and it all went fairly smoothly. I think I relaxed after that, that I could work with these people, they could work with me. And of course that was easy-peasy compared to what we had to deal with subsequently with all the mine wounds. And there's always anxiety, I think when you're doing something for the first time. That was very good that it worked well.

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