Home and away, he­roes of our pi­o­neer­ing Grace and courage un­der fire

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - BEN HARVY

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.

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