Keep calm and call the anaesthetist
By Siphokazi Zama
What comes to mind when you envision an anaesthetist? Old, grey-haired, male, someone who merely puts you to sleep while a surgeon cuts you open? How about: young, female, warm, hard-working, belly-dancing? That is what the anaesthetist at Netcare Settlers Hospital in Grahamstown is.
Meet Dr Gillian Jacobs-Martin.
New in town, the doctor has hit the ground running in setting up her practice, Frontier Anaesthesia at Settlers Hospital. The Stellenbosch University graduate does everything from epidurals to general anaesthesia. “My job is to facilitate the surgeon. Obviously, he needs to do something on you and I facilitate that.”
Before surgery, Jacobs-Martin records the medical history of the patient and puts them at ease before proceeding to the operating room. However, her job does not end when she has put the patient to sleep.
“In a two-hour operation, I maybe get to sit for 30 minutes. The rest of the time I am walking around checking the machines and writing notes on how the patient is responding to anaesthesia. I am prepared for any eventuality that could happen in there. Sometimes patients react differently to what you expected, and you have to be ready for that.”
Jacobs-Martin also teaches interns and community service doctors from the public side of Settlers Hospital. “I see them about twice a week and I teach them how to do epidurals or Caesarean sections. They have to learn how to do it and I am happy to teach them.”
Being a mother of two, young children, Jacobs-Martin cannot stop raving about the quality of life in Grahamstown.
“It’s a small town and people are very friendly. The parents in my children’s class have become my friends. Even the estate agent has become my friend; we go out for coffee and chat. Of course I cannot forget my family here at the hospital that have been so welcoming and helpful.”
She said that she is most grateful for the fact that she is able to run her own practice while gaining experience.
“My husband and I decided we were going to move here within five minutes of being in town. I used to work in Tygerberg Hospital and sometimes you would leave work at four and only get home at half-five or six. Now, I’m at work in five minutes”
- Why did you choose to specialise in anaesthetics?
It is a very civilised specialty, especially for a woman. I am here at seven in the morning, in and out of theatre all day and I can get home at three or four depending on when my day ends. They call me in when they need me, but I can also say sorry, I’m away for the weekend.
- What has been the most surprising thing about Grahamstown to you?
How easily we integrated. It’s like Grahamstown was waiting for me. I think it’s what my family and I wanted the whole time. What really helped was that my son, Daniel, started in grade one and so, we were immediately part of that community. My husband keeps saying he doesn’t want people to find out about Grahamstown because then they will come here.
- Do you have any future plans for your career once you’ve properly settled in Grahamstown?
Well since I’ve been here, I’ve done a lot of things. For example, women couldn’t get an epidural during labour because there was no one to do it. But now, that option is available and patients no longer have to go to Port Elizabeth. But once I’ve settled down properly, I’m sure I will be able to do more. Starting my practice and moving here was a big project on its own.
- And for your personal life?
I want to get a belly dancing school started. I’ve been dancing my whole life, since I was in kindergarten, so it’s something I enjoy. I had a dance school in Paarl, but now I’ve moved. So once I’ve settled, I want to open my own school here.
- So why not become a professional dancer?
It’s just something I enjoy. I like sewing, for example, but if I had to do it for a living, I would hate it. So, that’s something I enjoy doing, but I also like my job.