MedShare visits Ecuador’s Amazonian Region

By Amanda Paniagua, Shipments Manager, MedShare

Paztaza Province, Ecuador

This week, thanks to a generous grant from an anonymous benefactor, MedShare’s Regional Repesentative in Ecuador Marco Galarza, MedShare supporter Dr. Dan Goldberg, and myself, Shipments Manager Amanda Paniagua, have had the remarkable opportunity to visit several recipient health care centers in Ecuador’s Amazonian basin.  We arrived at midday on Monday in Puyo, the capital city of Pastaza Province, to the warmest of welcomes.  The Municipal Government of Puyo, which has just sponsored the shipment of two containers of medical supplies and equipment from MedShare for the local healthcare system, had prepared a most touching ceremony for us in the Coliseum, complete with a brass band and local press!  After speeches by the Mayor Mr. Gérman Flores, his wife and President of the municipal charity foundation Mrs. Jimena Brito, and other community representatives, donated walkers and PET vehicles were ceremoniously presented to local disabled children, adults, and the elderly.

Mrs. Jimena Britos presents PET cart to young Daniel Vargas, who has Cerebral Palsey

Puyo community members at Ceremony in Coliseum. Medical supplies from containers are displayed behind

After lunch, we were taken on a tour of Puyo Hospital, one of the central Ministry of Health referral hospitals for the entire Pastaza Province, a territory that expands over 29,800 square km and 60,000 inhabitants!  “The hospital is running over 300% capacity right now,” said Dr. Barroso, Chief of Pediatrics and Medical Director of the Municipal charity foundation that sponsored the container.  “The average hospital stay for is 3-5 days per patient, and we don’t have enough beds.”  As luck would have it, MedShare received a donation of electric hospital beds just in time to include 26 on one of the two containers that were shipped to Puyo in December.

Puyo Hospital’s jurisdiction includes thousands of square miles of thick Amazon jungle, where seven different ethnic tribes live in tiny rural settlements without electricity, running water or roads to Puyo city.   In many of these indigenous communities, the only way to reach the hospital during medical emergencies is by small planes called in via two-way radio.  But when the weather is foggy or rainy, which happens frequently, the planes can’t fly.

Happy family at Puyo Hospital. These two boys were being treated for skin abscesses caused by jungle insect bites.

During our hospital visit we met a young boy who had been bitten by a poisonous snake in his jungle village and had been flown into Puyo in under emergency evacuation.  He was a member of the Waorani tribe, which was explained to me to be the most isolated out of the seven indigenous tribes.  The child had arrived naked, as the Waorani traditionally wear only very beautiful and intricate head adornments and body paint, so the hospital staff had dressed him in a pair of pajamas.  When we visited, he was visibly scared of the strange surroundings, but was receiving the best of medical care and was expected to make a full recovery.  Snake bites are one of the most frequent medical dangers seen in this region of Ecuador.

One of 26 hospital beds Puyo received from MedShare on recent container

The Ministry of Health and the Municipal government are obviously deeply committed to their people and are working tirelessly to improve the health care delivery system to reach those in the most isolated areas.  While at the Puyo Hospital we met a young mother from the indigenous Kichwa tribe who had been flown in from the jungle community of Pakayacu with her infant daughter.  The child was eight months old, but due to extreme malnutrition, weighed only a staggering 3500 grams- about the average weight of a healthy newborn.  Chief Nurse Irma Naveda told me that these critical cases of malnutrition had been a chronic problem in that particular village in the past years, but thanks to the efforts of a 4-person medical team stationed by the Ministry of Health a few years ago in Pakayacu, they the rate was reduced by over 50%.

MedShare is fortunate to have such qualified, committed partners as the Ministry of Health and Municipal government of Puyo.  Deep thanks to Mayor Gérman Flores, Mrs. Presidente Jimena Brito, Dr. Barroso, Nurse Irma Naveda, and all others for their warm hospitality and for showing us their outstanding work in the public health system of Paztasa province. Their dedication and love for the local people is truly an inspiration. MedShare is fortunate to have such qualified and committed partners, we hope to work together again on more containers for Paztaza Province very soon!

Dr. Barroso and disabled patient Sr. William P. with donated PET Cart

Puyo Hospital

Young mother and child. Teen pregnancy is a chronic problem in Pastaza Province.

Mother and child with Down Syndrome being treated for respiratory infection

MedShare's Shipments Manager, Amanda Paniagua, center

Special thanks goes to Marco Galarza for all his hard work coordinating this donation.

2010 in Review: A Year of Growth and Accomplishment

MedShare Volunteers in 2010: Van Hout Family

The drop of a ball that signals a new year often brings with it reflection, appreciation, and excitement at the prospect of things to come. For MedShare, 2010 was a year of growth and accomplishment, and we’d like to take a moment to share and celebrate our achievements that you helped make possible.

Whether you support MedShare through countless volunteer hours, monetary gifts, product donations, being a community ambassador, or in another way, we want to take a moment to thank you as the MedShare mission cannot be sustained without you.

Infrastructure reorganization saw the expansion of staff in the Western Region and the restructuring of current staff, both of which allowed MedShare to increase efficiency in many areas; one example was being able to respond quickly to the earthquake in Haiti.

Speaking of Haiti, MedShare was able to respond quickly due to our nimbleness, capabilities, and previous working relationship with the Haitian government and hospitals. One year later, MedShare has shipped 28 40-foot containers filled with more than 164 tons of life-saving medical supplies and equipment to Haiti, and supplied 83 medical mission teams with more than 14,000 pounds of medical supplies for treating the sick and injured.

MedShare continued to be supported by a strong Board and expanded its local presence in both the San Francisco Bay Area and Atlanta by growing representation on both Regional Councils, laying the groundwork for the organization to flourish. Each Council took on a leadership role and raised funds to sponsor containers of medical supplies and equipment, one to the Kingdom of Tonga and the other to Mali, two of the most desperate places on Earth. Board and Regional Council members also participated in the MedShare trip to Ghana, where they visited beneficiaries of MedShare containers and saw firsthand how MedShare makes a difference.

One of our main concerns at MedShare is, of course, reducing environmental impact. In addition to redirecting tons of medical supplies from landfills each year, we’ve also made changes to our warehouses in both the Southeast and West this year. Both were outfitted with motion-activated lights, saving each facility from needlessly wasting energy. The West has low-flow toilets, and the Southeast will begin installing solar panels next month.

Our communities recognized us for going green: MedShare was selected the winner in the “Green Giving” category by Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2010 Environmental Awards, and the Western Region was named a Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP) winner by the CalRecycle Waste Reduction Award Program.

In December, we exceeded our goal of 10 containers by shipping 14, and closed the calendar year with a total of 101 shipments – a 33% increase over the same period in 2009.

Perhaps one of the most exciting things on the horizon for MedShare in 2011 is our potential for expansion. Now that the economy has stabilized somewhat and MedShare has developed a stronger base of support both nationally and in existing locations, the Board of Trustees and senior staff are looking for other cities in the U.S. where we can expand the MedShare mission. This process is a prudent and thoughtful one that has been led and facilitated by Accenture to help MedShare achieve the highest possible performance and leverage for the resources at our disposal.

Your support is the fuel for the MedShare mission. During a very difficult economic time for our nation and the world, the MedShare mission has grown substantially. It would not happen without YOU. We are so grateful for everything you’ve done, and look forward to sharing the ride with you in 2011.

(This story is an excerpt from our January e-newsletter. To read the entire newsletter – featuring stories MedShare’s trip to Ghana and a volunteer profile on Deborah Printz – click here.)

MedShare Trip to Ghana

On October 16th, 2010, a group of MedShare Board Members and staff traveled to Ghana to visit recipient hospitals and clinics, provide biomedical training to local medical technicians, and deliver bags of medical supplies to various projects supported by Peace Corps volunteers.

The contingent included Board Members (and spouses) Thomas and Spring Asher, Terry Blum and son Luke, Paul and Jill Paris, Anne Sterchi, Maryann Toub, Andy Pines and daughter Molly, MedShare staff Eben Amstrong, Nell Diallo, Stephanie Greene and A.B. Short, and KSU Professor Ardith Peters. As Maryann, Stephanie, and Andy’s wife are all returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCV), they had a special connection to the volunteers to whom supplies were delivered. Each traveler committed a portion of their baggage to carrying MedTeam supplies; a total of almost 250 pounds were transported this way.

Peace Corps volunteer Dylan Brown, an Obawale Clinic representative, and MedShare Board members & staff

Peace Corps volunteer Dylan Brown works in the Yilo Krobo district of Ghana in Obawale, and he coordinated getting MedShare supplies to the Obawale Clinic. He said, “The clinic has received the supplies and everyone was very excited and happy to see all that was received. The supplies are currently being used for villagers and their needs. Two weeks ago, there was a birth and the mother was supplied with diapers that she otherwise would not have been able to purchase. ” To read more about the Peace Corps volunteers, click here to read Molly Pines’ blog account of the trip.

Among the locations visited were the FOCOS Spine Center and Orthopedic Hospital, Kunta Kinte, Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, La General Hospital, Korle Bu Hospital, and Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

While there, MedShare’s Senior Biomedical Engineer Eben Amstrong trained 52 Technicians, Technologists, Engineers, and Users of equipment from Benin, Togo, and Ghana. The theme for the training was “Servicing Technology to Save Lives.” Among the things they learned were how to operate anesthesia machines, defibrillators, and vital sign monitors, as well as how to repair equipment. The training sessions were held in Ridge Regional Hospital and Korle Bu Hospital, Accra.

MedShare's Senior Biomedical Engineer Eben Amstrong, center, with trainees from Benin, Togo, and Ghana

Board member Terry Blum said, “We observed the utilization of equipment and supplies make a difference for those who were being served, but there is still an incredible gap that needs to be bridged. This was most blatant in a neo-natal nursery (Okomofo Anokye Teaching Hospital) that was built to hold 60 sick babies. Because of the demand there were more than 200 babies nestled shoulder to shoulder with up to 4 babies sharing a crib, and some asleep on a desk. I am so fortunate to be affiliated with MedShare in their challenging opportunity to bridge the gap between surplus and need while being ever cognizant of the dignity of those who are served.”

The trip to Ghana marked the Board of Trustees’ third trip; the first two were to Guatemala and Ecuador. If you are intersted in joining a future trip, please contact the Development Office at 770-323-5858 ext. 220 or dpass@medshare.org.

(This story is an excerpt from our January e-newsletter. To read the entire newsletter – featuring stories of 2010 in review and a volunteer profile on Deborah Printz – click here.)

Kimberly-Clark Sponsors Container to Bolivia

Bolivia

Thanks to the generous financial sponsorship of the Kimberly Clark Foundation, MedShare shipped another 40-foot container of medical humanitarian aid for Bolivia yesterday from our Southeastern Regional Distribution Center in Decatur, Georgia.

The medical supplies and equipment on the container are donations for the Hospital Clinico Viedma in the Andean city of Cochabamba.  This 200 bed public health institution has been serving Bolivia’s most poor and needy populations for the past 126 years.  In his appeal to MedShare and Kimberly Clark for donations, Hospital Director Dr. Eduardo Amaya wrote that 60% of the hospital’s patient population comes from rural and semi-urban areas, 20% are from the city center, and 20% are migrants from around the country’s provinces and rural villages.  The hospital also receives patients referred by the police and patients living on the streets and dealing with alcoholism and mental health illnesses.   The Bolivian Ministry of Health does its best to provide the hospital with supplies and staff, but due to the high poverty rate, they are constantly lacking critical resources to care for all of these needy patients.

According to the World Health Organization, 61 out of 1,000 children under five die in Bolivia, as compared to 8 out of 1,000 in the United States. Child malnutrition and stunted growth is a chronic problem.

Over 1,000 individual boxes of medical supplies and equipment were shipped to Hospital de Clínicas on the container today, including surgical gloves, crutches, syringes, surgical masks, IV tubing, exam tables, suction pumps, laryngoscopes, pulse oximeters, a ventilator, an electrosurgical unit and more.

We’d like to deeply thank the Kimberly Clark Foundation for sponsoring this humanitarian project, and the Kimberly Clark S.A. corporate office in Bolivia for facilitating the donation to the hospital!

A young Bolivian woman with a wheelchair sent from MedShare on a different container just a few months ago.

MedShare Ships Final Container of 2010 to Ghana

Ghana, West Africa

MedShare is proud to announce that its final humanitarian aid  shipment for the calendar year 2010 left the doors of the Southeastern Distribution Center in Decatur, GA on Thursday, December 23rd.  The 40-foot container is carrying over 17,000 lbs of donated medical supplies and equipment for the St. Matthew’s Medical Clinic in Ampenkro, Ghana, West Africa.

St. Matthew’s Medical Clinic is a small community health center that was opened in August of this year by the Catholic Diocese of Sunyani, Ghana in partnership with the Giving to Ghana Foundation from New York.  The clinic serves to the improve the health conditions of the Ghanaian poor who have an annual income of less than $500 U.S.

Included on the container shipped today are 18 hospital beds, an electrosurgical unit, examination table, blood pressure machines, ambu bags, bandages, crutches, wheelchairs, surgical masks, gloves, and much more.  These will surely go a long way to help the medical staff at St. Matthew’s be able to better serve their patients!

Special thanks to everyone at the Giving to Ghana Foundation in New York and the National Catholic Service Center in Ghana for their valuable partnership and their help in making this shipment happen!

St. Matthew's Clinic

Beds on shipment

Supplies on shipment

Shipment being loaded onto container

MedShare ships container to Gambia

Gambia

MedShare’s Southeastern Regional Distribution Center loaded and shipped a 40 foot container of medical humanitarian aid for the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in The Gambia,  a tiny, highly impoverished country in West Africa with a population of about 1.6 million. Tuberculosis, malaria and child malnutrition are frequent health problems suffered by the people.  See this WHO Health Profile for statistics.

This is the second container to Royal Victoria generously sponsored by Gambega Ltd., the Coca-Cola bottling company in West Africa; the first arrived in October and was a huge success. Click here to read an article that ran in a Gambian newspaper, Today!, describing the shipment.

Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital is the  main referral hospital for the country and is run by the government. It is a 500-bed teaching hospital that provides all levels of care to the Gambian population.  About 780 patients per day are cared for, and maternal, child health services and hemodialysis are provided free of cost.  The hospital relies heavily on the support of NGOs and donors like MedShare and Gambega Ltd to be able to care for the poorest families of the country.

MedShare sent over 12,000 lbs of medical supplies and equipment in the container today, including a birthing bed, examination table, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, a ventilator, laryngoscopes, bandages, cast materials, IV catheters, gloves, and much more!

See below for photos of the RVTH:

RVTH, Gambia

RVTH Patients

Young RVTH Patient

(Another) Letter from the field: St. Damien Hospital, Haiti

Father Rick Frechette

MedShare supports St. Damien Hospital, the premier pediatric hospital in Haiti that provides all services free of charge.  Currently, the hospital is overwhelmed with cholera cases.

As he did in November, St. Damien Doctor and Mission Director Father Rick Frechette wrote another letter describing the situation in Haiti that we wanted to share with you:

Dear Friends,

Gaudete, in Domino semper!
Rejoice in the Lord, always!

These words that begin mass today, the third Sunday of Advent, give rise to the name “Gaudete Sunday”. Today is unusual in that it is one of only two Sundays of the year where the priest wears pink vestments.

Since the normal color for both advent and lent is purple, (for contrition, woundedness and preparation), we well might consider pink a “softer purple.” Its not the gold or white of the usual rejoicing, but rather there still is an element of the drudgery. And yet a happy escape from it too. “Christmas is close, the Savior is near, take a moment to breath, don’t weaken.”

I am up earlier than planned, at 1 am, because off the death of a child in our cholera camp. Our camp is called “St Philomena,” after Sister Philomena Perreault who helped us in Haiti for so many years. As we light the pink candle of the advent wreath in a few more hours, we will also remember one more life that was snuffed out by a dreadful disease, and the tears and crying of the mother. We are all the poorer for this death, for every death.

Purple is also a part of the black and blue of the healing injury, the bleed under the skin. It’s a good color to represent the people of Haiti this year who have received more than their fair share of life’s blows.

Back to our camp. You have to try to imagine the 16 huge tents, spread out on gravel, extension chords bringing feeble power everywhere. Two washing machines under a tent, filled by buckets, dumping into a big dug hole, wash endless loads of sheets stained with deadly diarrhea. Twenty to thirty people a day are carried in, floppy bodies, by hook or by crook, even in these days of riots they somehow break through barricades. Rivers of Ringers Lactate flow through our endless tubing to revive them. Most do well. In fact, of almost 900 people who have come to us sick, only 15 have died of cholera. This is sad, yet we are encouraged that most people by far have fought and done well. None of our staff have contracted cholera after these many weeks of intense work, nor have we tracked it into our St Damien or St Luke hospital.

Still, our supplies run out, we can’t manage too much on site for emergencies, resuscitation, special medicines or tests, tension run high, tight nerves in strained doctors and patients make for a good bit of drudgery. But, we put Tang in our rehydration drinks, a Christmas tree and other lights try to make the nights a little festive, we have a big TV for those who are able to sit up and watch it and forget life for a while, and we try to keep everyone supplied with wonderful Christmas presents: a bar of soap, some toothpaste, a toothbrush, a towel.

I mentioned in a previous message the many medical challenges: the pregnant woman with cholera, the baby born in a cholera tent, the patients with heart disease who need loads of fluid fast and whose hearts can’t handle it. We had another unusual challenge: a prisoner with cholera was brought at midnight. The police wanted us to handcuff him to his cot. We refused. It is cruel to cuff a sick patient to a hospital bed. Crueler still to chain someone with massive diarrhea to a bed.

So the police kept watch instead. During the following afternoon, the prisoner said to the police he had to go down to the toilettes, and off he went with his hospital gown and carrying his IV bag high in the air. And he kept going, and going…and that was that, right out the gate. He escaped in a hospital gown with his IV in hand.

You have read of the riots these days. I spent two afternoons in the middle of them, driving around town picking up people we needed to help us. Imagine the problems riots bring in addition to being riots. You have 16 portable toilettes for cholera-diarrhea and the honey truck can’t pass through the streets to empty them. It’s not pretty. Your doctors and nurses can’t get to work. Stores are closed for days, in case you need more toilette paper, soap, laundry detergent, food, Tang, or cash.

The way we got around the city was something. I made an arrangement with 20 thugs, for a day’s pay. They were leaders in the riots in our part of the city. Three went ahead of my truck on motorcycles, and 17 rode with us in the back. We drove through the burning and barricaded city, while they pushed barricades out of the way and tangled with anyone who tried to stop us. It worked so well, I also did it the next day. It’s how we got essential staff to the hospital and the tents. Needless to say from the burning tires and debris we were covered with soot, so hard to get out that even after three showers we looked like we were wearing mascara.

As if this weren’t trying enough, the skies turned gray for two days, and drizzled lightly, not enough to put out the fires but enough that our hundred of washed sheets wouldn’t’dry. And when the sun finally did come out, so did small hornets, by the thousands, and they covered us. Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. Ask Patty Rowland, who is back for a second round of 10 days to help at St Philomena.

Purple?  Yes.
Just the right color.

Pick today?
Yes, very welcome.

Gaudete? Rejoice?
Yes, We still find the way.
I trust you do too.

Hope is the key, and it really does spring eternal.

As always, count on our thanks and prayers, in exchange for yours. Thanks for the help that keeps us going and not doing too badly. Merry Christmas as it gets very near.

Fr Rick Frechette CP

For more information on MedShare’s ongoing relief efforts in Haiti or to donate, visit our Help for Haiti page.

(photo via nph.org)