Roger Bowen: An anniversary, the Tour de Timor and sharing skills

Roger at work
The two Timor Leste public holidays for the anniversary of the 1999 Referendum were very quiet in Maliana, there were no obvious memorials or celebrations, just very quiet. Margaret and I walked up to the big white crucifix half way up the mountain, which overlooks Maliana. We found a well cared for “grotto” in a cave below the cross with a large copied sculpture of Michelangelo’s sculpture “la Pieta” in St Peter’s Basilica Rome.

There was a 2 hour Church lead remembrance service on the 8th September, and held in the grounds of the Maliana police station, (8th September 1999 – Maliana police station massacre), there were several wreaths placed at the foot of the black cross, near the flag pole, in the police station grounds. The police station flag however remained at full mast. There are a number of black Crosses throughout Timor Leste, one that is particularly well known is in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. There is no Christ featured on the black crosses and I think it is because they were erected for the relatives as a remembrance shrine to remember their loved ones who disappeared during the Indonesian occupation and whose bodies have never been found and formally laid to rest.

Margaret and I travelled down to Dil with Deo from Encouragement house who gave us the use of his double cab ute to bring the “8” boxes of donated goods, back to Maliana. This coincided with the final day of the Tour de Timor which was declared a public holiday in Dili. The Tour de Timor commenced on the 11th and Peter Murphy, the U.N. Aussie policeman here in Maliana, and his mate Manfred from Brisbane participated in this very tough event. There were about 450 riders in all. The Tour de Timor is approximately 550 kilometres of rugged mountain roads and tracks all covered in 6 days, with the riders camping in tents overnight with a mobile support crew of medicos, trucks and supplies setting up camp and feeding the riders.

The ride finished at the presidential palace in Dili on Friday 16th. It was a big event for Timor Leste and most of Dili’s roads were blocked and the airport closed on the 16th for the day. Margaret and I were there to see Pete, the Man, and Dave Natoli (Ambulance Dili), cross the line – a tremendous effort and feat of endurance by all. It looked as if most of riders had fallen off at some stage and they all looked pretty exhausted, sore and sorry. There were a large number of Timorese riders and they all finished the race. There was an unfortunate incident with a truck crash involving an Australian Army Tour de Timor support truck overturning and one soldier dying as a result with others injured. It was a sad ending for such a great event, but always a possibility on the T.L. roads.

Last Sunday I was able to demonstrate the use of an Intraosseous infusion needle for the administration of IV fluids in an 8-month old infant needing urgent resuscitation, after multiple attempts of IV cannulation had failed. In Australia the intraosseous infusion needle is used by ambulance paramedics and in A&E depts for babies and infants requiring IV fluid resuscitation in life threatening situations when intravenous access has failed or is not possible. The needle is inserted directly into the bone at particular points of the lower leg (tibia), and the fluids/drugs are absorbed through the venous network of the bone marrow. It is a very old technique, effective but brutal in comparison to intravenous cannulation. Dr. Moniz the medical director here, was unfamiliar with the use of this device as it is apparently not available through the health dept., here in T.L. Cook Medical Australia based in Brisbane produces these intraosseous infusion needles so an email requesting the donation of a quantity of intraosseous needles for Maliana hospital has been sent, in the hope of a favourable response.

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Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. - Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe