Dr Parker described his 20+ years of experience as a medical volunteer in war zones and other disaster zones around the world. He travelled as a team member of groups such as: International Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Aspen Medical.
Rwanda-Zaire. He helped the millions of refugees fleeing the genocide there in 1994. John returned home with signs of his having PTSD, though he ignored these. Eventually his marriage ended and he headed to a war zone.
Afghanistan (northern provinces). In 2000, the Taliban was in a civil war with the Northern Alliance.
Back in Australia, John became an alcoholic, lost his medical practice and was desperately unhappy. He found that nobody ‘back home’ cared to hear of his experiences. They had not changed, but HE had! He was very fortunate to secure a job mucking-out horse stables. The horses sensed his unhappiness and they would nuzzle his neck to show that they understood. He married again.
Nigeria There was a meningococcal outbreak in the northern area in 2006. From there, John went to Uganda to help organise a medical clinic dealing with AIDS.
In 2008, John went to a major burns hospital in eastern Iraq near the Iran border, where he risked being abducted; foreign doctors were worth $500,000 each. Hence, security was extreme.
Back home again, his house burned down!
In North Sudan, he helped Christian groups in this Arabic country. The medical mission there was clandestine, but random bombing was always a threat. It was here that John had his two most devastating medical failures. Two children had epiglottis (a swelling of the valve between the gullet and the windpipe – caused by an infection). John could only look on as they died, helpless, because he lacked the necessary surgical instrument to save them.
It took two years before John recovered sufficiently to become a functioning doctor again.
In 2015, John’s team went to Sierra Leone to combat an Ebola epidemic. In the four months he was there not one staff member died.
John ended his talk by saying; ‘When you live on adrenaline, you know you are alive!’