Patients Dying from Lack of Basic Surgical Supplies in NK

Surgery Done without Anesthesia 

A local LFNKR staff member in North Korea in charge of medical support spoke with a Japanese surgeon recently. The surgeon said that even if a doctor is very good, there was no way to perform operations successfully without postoperative management or the required sterile instruments, disinfecting, antibiotics and transfusions. It was even stated that antibiotics might not be necessary after operations if wounds were uninfected, because these days operations are done in clean environments.

But if any infection occurs, antibiotics are essential following removal of the focus of a disease such as appendicitis or cholecystitis. It is unlikely that in North Korea surgical instruments are currently being disinfected. At the very least, it is necessary to disinfect by boiling or by using iodine. If infection cannot be controlled, then the simple removal of an appendix could result in tragedy. Following the doctor’s statements, LFNKR has decided to begin supplying medicines and medical supplies as described below.

The following disturbing report was made by Miss A, one of our local staff members who visited a large hospital in Chonjin, North Korea.

Miss A witnessed 3 patients in the same ward as her mother being taken out as dead bodies on the same day she was there. One of them was a young woman, aged 26. She heard that all were simple appendectomy operations, but that their abdomens became suppurated resulting in their deaths.

As her mother was also facing an appendectomy, she feared her mother would die as well. Miss A thought it was not only due to a shortage of medicines, but also because of the doctor’s skills.

Following the appendectomy, the incision became suppurated, resulting in peritonitis. But the North Korean doctor re-diagnosed it as cancer. Her mother had to undergo another operation. After the second operation, the same suppuration occurred, and she had yet another operation, her third. Miss A saw her mother’s stomach, with three incisions, all with suppuration.

The doctor said her mother might die within a couple of days. Her stay with her mother at the hospital left her feeling terribly frustrated. She described what she saw in the hospital as unbearable.

Miss A sneaked into one of the hospital’s operating rooms to actually witness an operation. First, they did not anesthetize. The patient she saw was undergoing a second operation. The doctors were simply cutting away the suppuration from the incision of the first operation. The cotton balls were oddly dark colored. She found it little wonder that patients could not recover from operations. She deeply regretted that her mother would end up just another one of the victims.

Following this report, LFNKR has consulted with a local surgeon and decided to supply certain medicines. According to the surgeon, the following medical supplies should allow simple operations to be successfully accomplished.

1. Antibiotics: sodium penicillin, clindamycin, amicacin
2. Nutrition Drugs: aminoacid, multivitamin
3. Disinfecting goods: iodine, cotton balls, gauze, tape