One nurse anaesthetist told me that before he had a pulse oximeter he felt like an airplane pilot without a radar. Now he has an oximeter he has a radar; now he can see where he is going.

When you hear people talking about the devastating rates of anaesthesia mortality in low-resource settings – as high as 1 in 133 – they’re talking about Fataou’s paper. Published in Tropical Doctor in 2005, it showed just how dangerous surgery could be – and what needed to be done about it.

“That’s really why I chose this specialty when I was in medical school,” explained Fataou, in a fascinating interview for the BMJ.

“I could see so many people, when they went for surgery—unfortunately they died. They just died. Even people who were otherwise in good health. The rate of morbidity and mortality was very, very high.”

We’re proud to work with Fataou, with Aisslta Bissang-Kondet, with the National Association of Anaesthesia Technicians of Togo (ANTART), and with ACTs to deliver equipment and training to hospitals across the country. With funding from the 2011 BMJ Christmas Appeal we were able to send more than 100 oximeters – giving colleagues the tools for safer monitoring and safer anaesthesia, to throw their weight against those horrific statistics.