Could you do an amputation following instructions sent via text messaging?  Two surgeons did just that —  one was in the Congo — the other doctor was in London.

A doctor volunteering in war-torn Congo performed a complex amputation to save a boy’s life by following instructions sent by text message from a colleague in London. David Nott, 52, a vascular surgeon, was working for a Medicins Sans Frontieres hospital in the eastern town of Rutshuru, an area ravaged by bloody battles between Congolese and rebel troops.

Among the hundreds of wounded soldiers and civilians brought into the hospital in October was a 16-year-old boy who had been caught in the midst of a gun fight between advancing combatants in a forest in the Nyanzale region. He knew the boy’s only hope of survival lay in a forequarter amputation, a huge operation which involves removing the collar bone and shoulder blade. It usually requires much careful planning and a well-equipped operating theatre.

“In the best hands (it) carries huge risks,” he said. “I had never done this operation before but I knew a colleague in London who had so I texted him. He sent me two very long text messages back explaining how to do the operation step by step.”

Dr Nott was unsure that he should operate. “I had to think long and hard about whether it was right to leave a young boy with only one arm in the middle of this fighting,” he said. “In the end he would have died without it so I took a deep breath and followed the instructions to the letter.”

This is a tremendous example of human genius meeting the merits of technology to provide for the public welfare.

We cheer those creative doctors, for they have proven their dedication, not to a profession, but to the humanity they humbly serve.

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