IN A little over a week of volunteering at a hospital in Africa, Cooma's Libby Thomas has saved the life of a newborn, assisted with a c-section, observed 10 c-section births, assisted 13 natural births and witnessed the birth of two sets of twins.
The 18-year-old is spending a month volunteering at the Iringa Regional Hospital in Tanzania as part of the gap medics for a month program.
Miss Thomas who went to St Patrick's Parish School and completed her HSC at St Clare's College in Canberra last year, is hoping to study nursing and midwifery at university.
She said her time so far in Tanzania had been eye opening, but had helped her be certain she wanted to pursue a career in medicine.
"I wasn't 100 per cent sure that I wanted to study nursing/midwifery before I left but now I am," she said.
"It's an incredible opportunity where I get to do things that I wouldn't even be able to do until I finished my uni degree, but here I am, at 18, scrubbing in to assist a surgeon in a c-section on women, some who are the same age as me or even younger."
More incredibly she spent an hour resuscitating a newborn by herself and saved him.
"The midwife left me and told me just to do what I could. The little boy lived but because of the lack of equipment, staff and knowledge to help resuscitate this baby, he sadly now has brain damage."
She said the experience had made her grateful for living in Australia and to have healthcare that is of a high standard.
"They don't have the equipment to see whether there are any problems with the baby or with the mother. They only go on what they can think may be wrong. One woman went to have a c-section thinking she was having one baby but ended up having twins, but nobody knew that because of the lack of equipment," she said.
"The doctors and midwives are all so friendly and willing to teach. I am often told that my assistance is so valuable to them."
She has been so touched by what she has seen that when she returns home she is planning to fundraise for a new ultrasound machine for the hospital's maternity ward.
"They are in desperate need of one and from what I have seen, it could save so many little baby's lives," Miss Thomas said.
She is currently staying with 17 other students between 16 and 25-year-old in the gap medics house and recommended the program to anyone with an interest in pursuing a medical career.
Miss Thomas has applied to study at the University of Canberra, Griffith, Australian Catholic University in Canberra and Queesnland and the University of Queensland.
Main round university offers could be accessed from 9pm on Wednesday on the University Admissions Centre website.