Leeds medic comes to the rescue in Africa


A University of Leeds medical student used his skills and training to save the life of a seven-year-old child whilst volunteering in north-eastern Tanzania.

The incident happened this summer whilst trainee medic Tom Dowsett was acting as a volunteer co-ordinator for the non-profit organisation 'Light in Africa'. Tom was helping to make a film highlighting the work of the charity at the Tudor Village orphanage when the child was rushed in. Her windpipe had been blocked by a highly toxic ball-shaped berry, the size of a conker and she was in danger of suffocation, but her family could not afford to take her to the nearest hospital.

Tom gave cardiac massage continuously for the 50-minute high speed car journey, keeping the child breathing until they reached the hospital. She was taken into surgery and the hard-shelled plant was removed successfully. "It was a traumatic experience for everyone involved," said Tom. "We were constantly trying to keep the child responsive. The road was very bumpy and the car was flying over the bumps. We raced through police and immigration checkpoints without stopping. "Three times during the journey we thought she had given up and then with increased stimulation from us she took a gasp out of nowhere," he added.

Tom has just started his fourth year of medical training after taking a year to study for a BSc in Clinical Sciences at the Leeds Institute for Molecular Medicine, a research institute within the University's School of Medicine. He has been volunteering with Light in Africa for three years, has organised and participated in bike rides from John O'Groats to Land's End and he and the volunteers he has recruited have raised in excess of £40,000. Tom is still open-minded about what he will do when he qualifies in 2013.

Although he expects that his studies will take up more and more of his time, he is committed to continuing his charity work. "I will definitively be going back. I would love to see the children again and see how Light in Africa is giving them the life they deserve," he said.

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