Harriet Stone closeup hospital

My time with Atoll Volunteers – Harriet Stone

We interview Harri Stone, a medical student from the UK, on her medical placement at Lhaviyani Hospital.

Harriet Stone hospital

Hi! So what’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Harri, I’m 24 and I’m originally from Cardiff, Wales.

What inspired you to come volunteer with us?

I was researching online to carry out some medical volunteering and Amanzi travel stood out. I had a few extra questions from the information on the Internet and the staff based at the Amanzi office were extremely nice and made me feel confident and comfortable to apply to this project. I researched the hospital and area and liked that it is a fairly small hospital but is the main hospital for the whole Atoll. This meant that there would be varied conditions and people. I was keen to work in a different country to experience the healthcare, culture and to gain better communication skills especially with people who may not speak English. For me, it was important to have a community feel and be surrounded by other volunteers. It was not important if they were medical volunteers but to live with other people in a house makes the experience.  I have previously visited the Maldives but I can now say I have experienced the “real” Maldives which has been amazing.

What was your favourite part of working in Lhaviyani Hospital? 

The hospital has a very friendly atmosphere and the doctors here are from all over the world. We have shared experiences from our own countries which has been great and eye opening to hear about the difference in healthcare worldwide. The hospital is very small and so is the island so all the doctors know their patients and already have a good relationship with them. The doctors have allowed me to choose what hours I work and with what department, allowing me to experience and shadow the pediatrician, surgeon and gynecologist- even seeing my very first c-section.

What was the most interesting thing you’ve learnt about Naifaru and the local healthcare?

Naifaru has a very close community feel and I have learnt that they appreciate this and involve everyone. We were even invited to join a little girl’s birthday party. I am shocked at the waste management on the island but hopefully with education and awareness this may be reduced. I have learnt that the healthcare they receive over here is free and have learnt a lot about thalassemia, which is only something that is mentioned in passing in the UK. Thalassemia proves difficult to treat and is life threatening if not treated. Even with treatment children don’t usually survive to their twenties but with bone marrow transplants they are cured. Therefore, doctors are keen to carry out cross matching and testing from a very early age. Unfortunately, it is difficult to prevent in Naifaru, having a small population, but they are very pro-active in their treatment.

Harriet Stone birthday party
It wasn’t all work and no play, so where was your favourite excursion or activity?

The snorkeling has been amazing, but the first time we took the turtles out for a swim in the sea to encourage them to dive under the water for food was, to me, a surreal experience. Never thought I would ever have the opportunity to do this.

Harriet Stone turtle

If you had a time machine would you do anything differently?

If I had a time machine I would have come out to Naifaru earlier so I could have spent an extra week on the island.

Why do you think it’s important for medical students to volunteer abroad, especially in Naifaru?

It is important for medical students to volunteer abroad to get a full understanding of the differences of healthcare worldwide and also different conditions that are more common in other parts of the world. For me I have learnt how important communication is and appreciate the NHS service we have at home. In Naifaru the GP practice does not exist but is like an outpatient department in a hospital. It is very quick service for example if people need an x-Ray they go get their x-Ray then come straight back for a consultation. For such a small hospital this I was surprised to see. The experience I have gained gave me the a whole perspective of the different aspects of medicine and healthcare within Naifaru.

 Can you sum up your experience in 3 words?

Experience of a lifetime!

Anything else to add?

Amazing experience with a great group of people. They have all made me feel at home and have made some friends for life during this trip. Would advise everybody I know to come and carry out the medical volunteering here and experience the real Maldives in Naifaru.

Thanks Harri! You have had us in stitches since your arrival, and we have thoroughly enjoyed hearing all your hilarious hospital stories and taking advantage of your free sports massages! This is not goodbye, simply see you later!

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