Volunteer in Focus: Nurse George Appasamy

November 2020

We are always amazed by the dedication of our medical volunteers. With another lockdown underway, we wanted to celebrate their hard work. George Appasamy, a former scrub nurse at Preston Hospital, now works as a specialist nurse for an eye clinic at Royal Blackburn Hospital.

The essential service he works for gives patients regular intravitreal injections, so they do not lose their vision. Here he shares some of his experiences as an Orbis volunteer and how he stays healthy under lockdown.

“Firstly, it’s fantastic to be an Orbis volunteer,” says George whose first trip with Orbis was to Ethiopia in 2012. “It was an eye opener for me, as I learnt Orbis brings together experts from all over the world to provide training that develops staff in underdeveloped countries,” George went on to volunteer a further four times with Orbis in China, Panama, Bangladesh and last year in Myanmar.

George in Bangladesh with Orbis in 2017

George reminisces fondly about the specialists he met while volunteering at Orbis including Dr James Lehmann (Eye Surgeon), Angeline Chaipa (Nurse), Carolyn Earnshaw (Matron), Nicolette Webster (Manager) and Hunter Cherwek (Vice President of Clinical Services), describing them all as fantastic. The clinical, leadership and communication skills he honed have improved his nursing skills and are reflected in his volunteering duties, “Initially, when I went out in 2012, I was teaching nurses about cataracts and the techniques of scrubbing. The next time I was doing squint procedures (strabismus – diverted eye). After that I was doing corneal transplants. In Myanmar I got to do all the specialities such as corneal, cataracts and ocular plastics with expert surgeons from around the world.”

In 2019, on his volunteering trip to the picturesque city of Mandalay in Myanmar, one nurse particularly stood out for him, “Cielo, she was extraordinary, a quick learner. I only had to teach her once and she would pick up the [scrubbing] techniques - how to handle the instruments, how to anticipate and keep the instruments ready even before the doctor asks. She was appreciated by all of the doctors.”

George taught local nurses many skills including the importance of pre-empting the needs of physicians, “the importance of anticipation during the procedure, keeping the instruments ready even before the surgeons ask for the instrument - that is how, as a scrub nurse, you become popular amongst doctors.”

Back home in Blackburn and throughout lockdown, George will continue to work at the clinic. He describes the importance of being supported at work and at home during the pandemic, “Our team is an amazing. We motivate each other. My managers are an extraordinary support.” He adds, “At the same time, during lockdown my family have been really supportive. We always follow the Government guidance. We stay healthy by going for regular walks wearing appropriate PPE, doing exercises at home, cooking healthy food and spending quality time together. My wife, she is also a nurse, so she supports me a lot as do our children. I also believe in God, so God has kept us going. The pandemic has brought us even closer together as a family because we have stayed at home most of the time. It’s at times like this that family is really important.”

George, who has also volunteered with the UN in Sudan, is the first ever degree holder in his family - something his parents and family are very proud of. He clearly loves his job, “I am proud to be a nurse. It gives me the opportunity to help others. I would say I am very passionate about my work. I have been supported by wonderful colleagues. It is very rewarding to know that patients are getting better every day. It gives me a sense of satisfaction when I know I am making a difference to their lives.”

George from everyone at the Orbis family, thank you for your dedication and hard work! Earlier this year we created a thank you video for our amazing medical volunteers, which you can watch below.

If are an Orbis UK volunteer and would like to feature as a volunteer in focus, contact [email protected]