Home and away, heroes of our pioneering Grace and courage under fire
WHEN airline staff told Adelaide nurse Natalia Adanichkin it would cost $1000 in excess baggage to transport precious equipment to Greece to help wildfire victims, out came her credit card. Without a second thought, the Royal Adelaide Hospital burns unit nurse manager volunteered extra money to make sure the life-changing supplies made it on board. The decision to fly to Greece on August 5 – as fire-ravaged Athens continued to burn – was made on just three hours’ notice, Ms Adanichkin said. The 51-year-old had been in contact with world-renowned Adelaide plastic surgeon Professor John Greenwood who, after making a mercy dash Europe days earlier, was desperate for skin harvesting equipment. The pair work together in Adelaide. “By Sunday night, the decision was made at 7.30pm that it would be easier, quicker, cheaper for me to go there and bring the equipment over to John,” Ms Adanichkin told the Sunday Mail. “I was the last one to register to go on the flight.” Ms Adanichkin joined Prof Greenwood – who pioneered a biodegradable skin graft with the CSIRO after the Bali bombings in 2002 – at Athens’ Latseio Burns Unit 24 hours later.
“The burns (injuries) were all major, 25 per cent and greater (coverage area),” Ms Adanichkin said.
“(And) most were female and elderly. When I got there on the Monday afternoon, we went straight to the hospital where we (put the) equipment in for sterilisation. By Tuesday morning, they were able to use the equipment. It was heartbreaking to see many people really burned at the same time.”
Ms Adanichkin said a team of skilled surgeons, led by Prof Greenwood, performed two major surgeries each day.
Greek authorities now believe about 100 people have been killed in the devastating fires. More than 80 people were killed in the blaze or drowned in the sea trying to escape.
Ms Adanichkin, who returned to Adelaide after volunteering for a week, said that Greek surgeons reduced their operating time after learning new techniques from Prof Greenwood.
“It was good to see on the last day (that they were) doing what (Prof Greenwood) taught them,” she said.
“We developed really good relationships and friendships with staff in that unit. We’re unofficially calling them our little sister unit.”
MERCY DASH: Nurse Natalia Adanichkin , above, and the Greek wildfires that have killed about 100 people , top.