MedShare abroad: Riding the roller coaster of humanitarian aid

I love surprises.  I don’t ever want anyone to tell me how a movie ends before I see it myself.  I beg my boys not to spill the beans on my birthday present before I can open it.  (Despite my pleading, they usually can’t help themselves and tell me anyway.)So, when the team from Food for the Poor said they had a “surprise” for Eben and I when we arrived at the National Hospital of Antigua, I was excited and intrigued.  I literally jumped for joy when they told me that a shipment of supplies sent recently from MedShare’s Western Region had arrived earlier than expected and was unloaded at the hospital just yesterday.  It was like all my favorite holidays combined into one brilliant moment!  We were definitely flying high on the international aid roller coaster and feeling quite proud… we could see directly that our work really does make a difference.


ImageAs a result of this fortuitous timing, Eben was able to provide real-time training for technicians, nurses and doctors on the equipment sent including a defibrillator, infant incubator and hospital bed.  In fact, when we went to check on one of the hospital beds shipped, we learned that the bed – which had literally arrived just yesterday – was already being used by a woman in labor.  Talk about meeting an urgent need!

After flying high in the morning, I found myself crashing down the humanitarian aid roller coaster in the afternoon.  We visited Hospital de Chimaltenango, a 160-bed hospital that is operating under what the doctors themselves describe as a “crisis.”  To add to an already overwhelmingly bleak situation, two weeks ago the hospital had a fire in its pediatric unit that was caused by a rigged-up phototherapy mechanism (they do not have standard bilirubin lights used for jaundiced infants).  Luckily no one was hurt, but an already resource-poor facility now has to deal with restocking an entire unit.

After choking back tears for most of the tour, I finally broke down and wept as Dr. Castillo, head of Pediatrics, showed us her intensive care unit which consists of only two cots and a nebulizer.

She has no monitors or ventilators and yet, she comes in every day and provides the best care she can just as the rest of the doctors and nurses and staff do.
I smiled and wiped away my tears when I saw Dr. Castillo coo with delight as she checked on Baby Norma, one of her youngest and smallest patients.
ImageI thought about the entire MedShare family – our amazing volunteers, generous donors, dedicated partners, and fiercely committed staff, Board and Council members. Together, we can help Dr. Castillo, Baby Norma, health care professionals and – most important – patients all across the world.  We have the surplus; they have the need. So, let’s get to it and keep riding that roller coaster.  After all, you never know what kind on inspiring surprises might be just around  the corner.


2 thoughts on “MedShare abroad: Riding the roller coaster of humanitarian aid

  1. What an amazing, happy stroke of luck that MedShare’s skilled biomedical engineer visited the Antigua hospital the DAY after their donated supplies and equipment arrived, so he could really show the hospital staff the inner-workings and uses of the pieces. Now the staff will be able to confidently install and appropriately use and maintain the equipment, and keep it running well for years!

  2. An Intensive Care Unit with no monitoring equipment? Hard to imagine. With no critical care equipment inside, it sounds like the ICU is really just like the general patient units, only the kids in the beds are sicker. It’s heartbreaking, both for the kids and their families, who need the higher-level monitoring, and the nursing and medical staff, who want to provide it but don’t have the means. I hope that this situation can get better, with the continuous support of NGOs like MedShare, Food for the Poor, Order of Malta, and others doing humanitarian work in Guatemala!

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