A British surgeon volunteering in the Democratic Republic of Congo
, Africa used text messaging to help him perform an unfamiliar surgical procedure, saving a teenager's life.
David Nott was volunteering for the French medical charity Medicin Sans Frontierescame
(A.K.A. Doctors Without Borders
) and when he first saw J he knew he was dying, and needed an operation quickly. J's arm had been nearly shot off in a battle between the Congolese army and rebels.
This would require a difficult procedure: a forequarter amputation, which Nott was not familiar with. However, his collegaue, Meirion Thomas, is one of only a handful of U.K. surgeons who is.
Nott sent him an SMS, and Thomas replied, with step-by-step instructions and a "Good luck" at the end. And no, to be precise it wasn't 160 characters or less; it was a multi-part SMS. It read
Start on clavicle. Remove middle third. Control and divide subsc art and vein. Divide large nerve trunks around these as prox as poses. Then come onto chest wall immed anterior and divide Pec maj origin from remaining clav. Divide pec minor insertion and (very imp) divide origin and get deep to serrates anterior. Your hand sweeps behind scapula. Divide all muscles attached to scapula. Stop muscle bleeding with count suture. Easy! Good luck. Meirion
Perhaps easy for Thomas, but not so easy for Nott. He did manage to follow the instructions and complete the procedure, and yes, J survived.
Watch a video report: