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Bridging the gap between surplus and need, to improve healthcare and the environment through the efficient recovery and redistribution of surplus medical supplies and equipment to those most in need.

Surgical Supplies in Tanzania

The following entry was written by Dr. Doug Grey, former MedShare Board member and current Western Council Member, about his work at Muhimbili University Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Things have gone well the first three weeks at Muhimbili National Hospital in the Upanga District of Dar es Salaam. We have participated in, assisted on, and performed many operations. We’ve experienced highs and lows, depending on the circumstances and the outcome, sometimes both in the same day.

The retired Chief of Surgery of San Francisco General Hospital, Bill Schecter, began this program with the premise of having a cadre of surgeons spend a month at a time helping with operations, making rounds, giving advice, and providing examples of how surgery is practiced in the US. The adage, “You can’t solve a problem that someone doesn’t know he has” comes into play. Bill visited many facilities in Africa and Muhimbili had interesting cases, some interested staff, and a pre-existing relationship with University of California, San Francisco. The Dean at UCSF had spent time in Dar and had actually helped sponsor a donated building to the medical center. So here we are. We have provided about 20 months of surgical assistance over the last four years for MNH.

The Scrubs and Gowns…

The surgical scrubs at Muhimbili are an experience. There is a sewing room where all the scrubs are hand sewn. Ordinarily, surgical scrubs come in a few sizes, are made of cotton, and have pockets for storage. They are extremely easy to put on. At Muhimbili, the sewing room has received some very durable new material that is more like tent canvas. It is hot. The gowns made from this materiasl are so undersized that removing them almost involves the Jaws of Life. They have a loop of cordon that is difficult to tie. They may fall down if the cordon knot loosens while walking. The pockets sometimes have holes in them and things fall out. But the older versions are thinner, cooler and do the trick. Many of us ended up using shirts that we brought and washing them at home every day.

Surgical gowns are typically fitted to put on easily, they have tapered sleeves and gathered wrists for ease of gloving, and are impervious to blood. The MNH surgical gowns are a different experience. They are of varying age, some new, some old, and are porous cotton fabric. Surgeons wear a plastic “butcher’s apron” underneath to prevent blood getting through. They are taped in the back to keep them closed. The sleeves are straight and have no wrist gathering. Donning gloves with these are a challenge, as nurses and surgeons glove themselves. Maintaining sterile technique is tricky, but thankfully absolute sterility here has not been a necessity, as was the case during the Ebola epidemic. The infection rate is extremely low, so what is done seems to work.

Disposables in the OR…

One curious aspect of the conduct of operations is the near total absence of expensive disposables during surgery. Things such as drains, catheters, sterile covers for cautery, etc. are all absent. These are replaced with lower budget common items. The disposable glove, in addition to being a glove, can be used as a drain, a surgical cover, a collection container, a specimen bag, and a bag for generating airway pressure. There are probably many more uses. The amount of anesthesia supplies in a typical hospital closet can be massive. But here, it is a few drawers of IVs, a few buckets of IV solution, and some intubation equipment and medications. They have learned to do without.

It has been a privilege to work this month at Muhimbili National Hospital.

 

 

Stories from Tanzania

The following are a series of entries written by Dr. Doug Grey, former MedShare Board member and current Western Council Member, about his work at Muhimbili University Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Week number two began in a different way. There is a religious complex at Muhimbili consisting of a mosque on one side of the cross campus walkway, and two back-to-back chapels on the other (one Catholic, the other Baptist). I decided to visit the 6 am service at the Baptist chapel. The chapel is open air and there are permanent square cutouts in the cinder walls that allow the signing or amplified preaching to be heard well away from the church. There were about 30 attendees, a preacher, and a man on the keyboard. The roughly 40 minute service was punctuated by preaching (in Swahili, and I would not want to be on the receiving end of whatever he was preaching against), singing, and praying. The singing was to me, most remarkable: it was strong, in unassigned three to four part harmony, and absolutely uninhibited. It was what I had heard the week before. There were a few “low alto” women who were inspired. They could not have been more welcoming.

 

The Patient’s Family at Muhimbili

One of the striking features in all the rounds of patients we have seen in this profoundly resource-constrained country is the obvious lack of many basic elements that we associate (read as “take for granted”) with good patient care. Many of these are startlingly absent at Muhimbili. Missing items can be as simple as provisions of food, bedclothes, liquids, and some basic elements of hygiene. Service varies here; some wards are provisioned well but the public wards are absolute bare bones. I mention this as an observation, not a criticism. Much, if not all, of the shortfalls in provision of these basic human needs are provided by families. From kangas (colorful fabric coverings that provide coverage and privacy for the patients) to drinks, food, dressings, and transportation needs are all provided uniformly, unquestioning, and cheerfully by family members. I saw this time and again in the outpatient clinic. An elderly family member would require a wheelchair and assistance with the most basic needs, and there would be one or perhaps two attentive sons taking on this burden without hesitation. And this is in an environment where aids for disabled people are not required by law as they are in the US – something which we take for granted.

During the seasonal cleaning of the wards all patients are evacuated into the streets, parking areas, and parks for several hours while the wards are scrubbed. It is disarming to see the entire ward out under tents being tended to by some nurses. This couldn’t occur without the family’s help.

 

Muhimbili Recycling in the OR

Recycling is popular worldwide, but Tanzania takes this to a level unimaginable anywhere else. OR chairs have a variety of different looks, based on varying states of disrepair, causing one to question “What is a chair?” Is it one without a back? How about a seat and back with no legs? How about just the seat resting on a stool? All of these are in use throughout the Operating Theatre. How about gowns? How much of the gown has to be lost before it is not usable? One tie? Two ties? All the ties? These can be replaced with gauze strips (not designed for re-use) or plastic strips that have to be torn to be removed, then retied with the next use. Where does this stop? If you have to cut a hole in the gown, how many holes are too many?

 

Hope and Change

One obvious issue that I have not addressed in prior blogs is how the suggestions for change are received by the surgeons and whether progress is inevitable. We have experienced this directly with the two groups with whom we interact. Firm 1 is the group associated with MUHAS (Muhimbili University Hospital and Allied Sciences) populated by motivated surgeons who are open to suggestions. They have added multiple operations to their repertoire in the last few years and have adopted many of the patient care habits that Bill Schecter has been modeling through his five years of service. Firm 2 is comprised of the Muhimbili National Hospital surgeons. There are many excellent surgeons, but a few of the older surgeons are somewhat rigid in their practice as well as uninterested in any suggestion of surgical alternatives for care. The issue of tiers of quality in surgical care is not new and peer pressure is probably the strongest motivator for change. In a truncated volunteer experience where time and cases are limited, it tends to be discouraging.

 

Patient Privacy

Patient privacy is paramount and sacred in the United States. There is a semblance of some privacy in Muhimbili, but the very public nature of “ward medicine” make this difficult. Exams are considered private for all ages and both sexes. This is not an easy task in public wards that are overcrowded. But small mobile privacy screens that roll up and down between beds can afford this for patients, at least to the degree that they will accept exams that are essential. The outpatient clinic is different. It has exam rooms shared by two senior doctors, each with a desk separated by only a few feet. So simultaneously, there are two patients, each with family, each giving an oral history. There is a shared exam table with a small privacy screen and a small sink, and this has to be enough to get the necessary exams done. When the exam is concluded, the patient leaving is asked to call out the next patient’s name to the throng outside. The waiting room is an inside courtyard with dozens of benches along the walls lining the courtyard. The next patient moves into the room and the process continues.

In years past, Muhimbili had been “paper based” in their record keeping but have now moved to computerized records. This would seemingly be great progress for a country in the pursuit of improving care. The infrastructure has not kept up, however, and the computers lose power every 10 to 15 minutes. They have to be rebooted, and the record keeping takes twice as long. No one complains.

 

Washing Cement

In my last blog, I referred to the campus maintenance legion who does their work all day. When we are walking to rounds at 6:45 am, the hospital is getting scrubbed. The dirt paths, dirt parking areas, and public spaces have already been raked to clean the leaves and overnight debris as well as trash. There must be a mile of concrete walkways that are actively being washed, mopped, and swept every morning. Dust blows all day so this is an endless task, but their commitment to this effort has paid off. Maintenance of a clean space is easier than achieving that first clean transformation. The hospital corridors are protected in the same way. Yes, it might be cosmetic, but there seemed to be a real sense of pride in the end result. The patients and their families are the ultimate beneficiaries. They have done the same with the campus gardens, but they are, unfortunately, cordoned off with barbed wire and are off limits for sitting. Too clean to use…

 

What’s In a Name?

When we arrived at Muhimbili in October 2014, we were perplexed by what they decide to call us and how they refer to their own colleagues. They called Bill Schecter “Prof” as a sign of respect. They referred to me as “Dr. Grey” and called Craig Lubbock “Dr. Craig” — no explanation, no reason for this difference. During this trip, it became evident that there was this inconsistency even within their own ranks. They would refer to each other by either their first, middle, or last name only, about a third of each, and not refer to any as “Doctor”. Today the explanation: their society chooses to take the simplest name – either the first name, middle, or the last name – and that becomes their name to all employees and patients. “Bosco” is the name of reference of John Bosco Ngendahayo ; “Kitembo” is the reference name of Kitembo Salum. They take the easiest name of the three and that becomes the reference name for all. Makes sense. Mystery solved.

– Doug Grey

Too Few ICU Beds in Tanzania

The following entry was written by Dr. Doug Grey, former MedShare Board member and current Western Council Member, who is on a medical mission trip in Tanzania.

I began my fourth medical mission trip to Dar es Salaam just before the New Year in 2016. Having a number of home renovation projects finally finished, the travel was a welcome relief.

When I arrived in Dar I met Dr. Craig Lubbock who is also retired Kaiser surgeon and had been on our trip in October, 2014. We stay in the Kalenga House, a UCSF-sponsored house with rooms for eight, a common kitchen, and convenient proximity to the Muhimbili Hospital, the largest teaching hospital in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a bit like being in something between a dormitory and a fraternity house. Cooking duty is shared, but there are those with culinary skills, and then there’s me.

The first weekend was dedicated to combating jet lag, getting the house provisioned for the month, and making initial contact with our Tanzanian colleagues with whom we will be working the next several weeks. Our new Pediatric Surgery colleague, Dr. Henry Lau, is a retired Johns Hopkins surgeon who is spending the year under the aegis of the US Peace Corps performing Peds Surgery at Muhimbili. He provides some consistency to the exchanges and efforts to assist with care at Muhimbili. He has taken a great interest in teaching the Tanzanian surgery residents basic surgical skills like knot tying, suturing, and some of the “craft” of surgery. One of the hazards of spending a year in any one place is you inherently feel much more ownership for both the problems as well as responsibility for solutions. Inherent in any medical mission is “doing your best with what you have in the allotted time.” There are advantages and disadvantages to almost any effort to help.

Our first day at the hospital began early. We passed the Baptist Chapel that finishes its morning service with a singing round by the parishioners snaking out of the chapel. The harmony was angelic and contrasted with the stillness of the hospital grounds. During the day, the hospital campus is over-run with humanity, but in the morning hours the corridors are empty and the gardens quiet.

We begin with rounds in the Intensive Care with the Chairman of Surgery, Dr. Ali Mwanga. This is a six bed ICU with the sickest of the sick, most on ventilators, and either trauma cases or patients with surgical complications. It is evident that the Muhimbili staff’s dedication and commitment to getting these ill patients better is exemplary. Intensive Care Units are complex. Getting some of the patient data is difficult to sort out in the bedside records. The patients can’t be weighed every day and some of the decisions are made with gestalt and not data. But this is not necessarily bad. Strain occurs in this limited resource environment when all six beds are filled and a new case is contemplated. The safety net of an empty ICU bed isn’t always available and patients can suffer because of the lack of resources.

One of the system improvements that has been introduced for the Surgery Department is a Morbidity and Mortality Conference, the standard forum for discussing complications due to lapses in care or unavoidable circumstances. The Residents presented several cases where this ICU bed shortage had led to delays in necessary operations. This was referred to as a “System Problem”. Those bad outcomes due to bad judgment or bad decisions were called “negligence”. The stark candor is both alarming and enlightening as now there has been a tangible increase in everyone’s awareness (and responsibility) for the need to improve care. This level of frank discussion was impressive and has already led to good decisions and discussions from the younger surgeons.

Four years ago the hospital campus was like an abandoned movie set. The hospital wards were concrete barracks. There would be areas of used medical equipment, almost like randomly occurring “equipment graveyards ” of old white iron beds, stainless steel, broken furniture, etc. This happened in a society where almost nothing is ever thrown away, but rather re-utilized in a lower tech manner.

Through government jobs programs newly introduced by the Prime Minister, the hospital now has several different categories of workers that are improving the physical plant. There are security guards, both male and female, who circulate on all the corridors outside and provide a feeling of safety. There are people assigned to raking leaves and picking up trash in all the gardens and public spaces. There are construction projects throughout the campus with rich red soil being dug by hand in several different areas. Many of the gardens have been finished and are now like public parks. The plumeria trees are in bloom and the fragrance of jasmine is pleasant. We no longer get the feeling of crumbling desperation that we had three years ago.

But that feeling of thriving culture disappears when we enter the wards where the patients are cared for. There would be 50 patients in a room otherwise designed for 30 patients. The rooms, which would usually house three beds in parallel, were now housing one bed, followed by one patient on the floor, then a bed, floor, bed, floor and so on. There were also patients in the corridors. There is no patient privacy.

Walking across the campus, I came across an extremely idealistic medical student who was going into Internal Medicine. She was proud that MUHAS was the most difficult medical school to gain entrance to as well as the most difficult to stay enrolled in and succeed. She was optimistic and happy with her decision, which was not based on reimbursement potential, something that she thought motivated her fellow students. She was grateful to meet a happy retired surgeon who shared her same idealism.

Again on this trip, the engagement of random passers-by with solid eye contact is alarming at first, then very reassuring. “Mambo Poa” is the standard “How are you?” And their response can be many variations of “fine” (“Poa,poa”, “Poa” , “Nzuri “). It certainly makes the walks more enjoyable.

– Doug Grey

Liberia: “There is Hope”

The following entry was written by Charles Redding, CEO & President of MedShare. It is his third update on his travels in Liberia.

I am sure by now you understand that the need in Liberia is great and it will take a lot of help and support to improve the current healthcare situation. Today I bring you good news: there is hope.

liberia_update3_5Today we met with Dr. Francis N. Kateh, Deputy Minister for Health Services/Chief Medical Officer. He had just returned from a five-hour journey working in the field, but graciously met with us and presented the nine strategic pillars that had been developed to strengthen the healthcare system in Liberia. Obviously, the need for medical supplies, equipment and essential medicines were all integral parts of this plan. He was thrilled that MedShare and MAP were well aligned with the established health priorities for the country. He informed us that the most pressing needs he had, beyond supplies and medicines, were biomedical equipment repairs and training. Eben’s (our Director of Biomedical Training & Support) face flashed before my eyes. I shared with him our intent to commission a biomed training and repair mission trip to Liberia. We would recruit other engineers from hospitals and corporations to travel with Eben to the region to train and repair equipment. The Chief Medical Officer asked, “Can they be here tomorrow?” Steve Sterling, CEO & President of MAP, offered to send medical professionals to help train doctors and treat patients, along with using Telemedicine as a teaching aid. Dr. Kateh could not believe his ears. He was excited about the prospects of what we will be able to do by working together. Steve also announced that MAP would provide a program resource to the MOH office for four out of five days to help implement strategies and achieve the goals communicated to us. Together we can make a difference!

liberia_update3_6MedShare has a longstanding relationship with MAP International and I was delighted to be able to tour their offices and meet their dedicated staff. We started the meeting with a prayer for us and for all those who continue to need our help. What a dedicated group! I am truly honored to partner with such a passionate organization that has made a significant impact in Liberia. They continue to work to address a number of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) with a focus on Leprosy and Buruli Ulcers. Their direct relationship with the MOH office will be instrumental in our ability to align and support the health priorities of the country. My time here with Steve has strengthened my resolve to help the people of Liberia and leverage our strategic partnership to the fullest extent.

Now I introduce you to Dr. Martha Zarway and the Kingdom Care Medical Center. What a powerhouse leader and impactful medical center. We traveled what seemed like 2 miles down a winding dirt road in liberia_update3_7Monrovia before we came across this small and unassuming building. We had no idea what awaited us inside. Dr. Martha Zarway has established one of the finest and cleanest medical facilities in all of Liberia. The facility included 23 beds, lab facilities, a pharmacy, surgical/operating room, a kitchen, and storage. She promptly shared with us the impressive statistics for the hospital and the great work they are doing, via their Mobile Clinic Program, to reach some of the most marginalized citizens in remote regions of Liberia. She informed us that they charge each patient in these remote regions only 25 cents for treatment, but they do not turn anyone away who cannot pay. So moved by her presentation and the impact of her work, we decided to give a donation to cover the cost for a number of patients who could not afford to pay the 25 cents. Dr. Zarway shared a list of medicines with Steve and gave me a list of supplies and equipment the hospital needs. Don’t worry Dr. Zarway, help is on the way!

It is because of dedicated and caring individuals within the Liberian healthcare system –like Dr. Kateh and Dr. Zarway– that I believe there is hope for Liberia. I would also add Dr. Logan to this list. His passionate plea earlier this week compelled us to visit a former leprosy colony to meet with this ostracized community. Although our trip is fast approaching the end, I am encouraged by the prospects of partnerships and promise. This nation has been dealt one bad hand after another, but please do not feel sorry for Liberians, they do not feel sorry for themselves. It is this attitude that will allow them to overcome this latest set-back, and improve access to quality healthcare for all.

-Charles Redding

Liberia: “We Will Prevail”

The following entry was written by Charles Redding, CEO & President of MedShare. It is his second update on his travels in Liberia.

 
Another incredible day of discovery, dialogue, and dedication to finding solutions to some of the most pressing issues in Liberia. All throughout the day, one theme continued to echo during every meeting, “We will prevail.” A country ravaged by civil war and brought close to the point of no return by the Ebola Virus, refused to give up and exhibited an extraordinary zeal to find ways to improve.

liberia_update2_1Our day started with a visit to Vice President H.E. Joseph N. Boakai’s office. What a gracious host and thoughtful leader. He took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us to understand each of our goals and what was needed to be successful. This gave me the opportunity to discuss MedShare’s mission, to detail the support given to Liberia during the Ebola Outbreak, and to communicate our desire to partner with MAP and the MOH to help Liberia strengthen its health system. He was aware and very appreciative of our support during the Ebola Crisis and reaffirmed that it would indeed take a great deal of effort and intervention to improve access to quality healthcare. Although we did not have time to go into great detail, the vice president listened intently to all of our objectives and lauded our efforts to help his country.

Our next stop was a lunch meeting with the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Axelliberia_update2_2 M. Addy. Beyond the flavor of the food, the discussion was rich with opportunities for many who had traveled to Liberia from Georgia to explore business partnerships. Liberia, a country rich in rubber, cocoa, and oil palm, is looking for strategic investors to increase production of certified products. Fishing and other agricultural opportunities were also explored. It was clear that for Liberia to be able to rebuild and prevail, it must generate employment opportunities for its people. The unemployment rate in Liberia is a whopping 80%. The Savannah Port is a strategic partner with the National Port Authority in Liberia. Thousands of containers are shipped from Georgia to Liberia each year carrying everything from chicken parts to medical supplies and equipment from MedShare. It was noted that the majority of these containers are sent back to Savannah empty. What a golden opportunity to increase outputs in Liberia and haul items back to Georgia.

liberia_update2_3We then headed to a roundtable discussion with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. Participants in this discussion included members of CDC Liberia, the Carter Center, Savannah State University, A.M.E. University, MAP International, MedShare, and the Liberian Consulate for Georgia. Unfortunately, the Minister of Health was not able to attend. Topics ranging from strengthening the healthcare system to improving social welfare were discussed. Again, both MedShare and MAP were lauded for our efforts during the Ebola Outbreak. What I was most proud of was that Masmina Sirleaf from the HEARTT Foundation openly complimented MedShare’s work during the Ebola Outbreak. She stated that she worked with Jason and Amanda on a container shipment and really appreciated that they were allowed to select the items that they needed. Needless to say I was beaming with joy and satisfaction. Our model works!

Our hectic pace did not subside. After our lunch meeting we hurried to the U.S. Embassy to meet with Ambassador Christine Elder. Upon entering the embassy it felt like we had returned home. Ambassador Elder was very gracious with her time and listened as each of us communicated the purpose and objective of our visit. She thanked MedShare for the support we provided during the Ebola Outbreak and reiterated the need for training on equipment usage and repairs. She committed her support for our efforts to help strengthen Liberia’s healthcare system. Her aide also indicated that she would like to partner with MedShare and MAP to support a local Free Clinic that provides healthcare to people in Monrovia who cannot afford to pay. Of course we are all over this!

Our day could not have ended on a grander note. The vice president hosted us at a VIP Welcome Reception, complete with food, music, drummers, and African Dancers. What an liberia_update2_4incredible evening! I was very moved by many things this evening but the Ebola Recovery Song –We Will Prevail, sung to the tune of We Will Survive– as well as receiving a stole with “Liberia is Ebola Free” inscribed on it, and a Liberian pin, topped the list.

As I complete this blog, exhausted from an extremely hectic day, I am confident that Liberia will indeed prevail. But it needs help from organizations like MedShare, MAP, educational institutions, business leaders, and others. It is the little engine that can. I am so proud that MedShare played such a pivotal role in the nation’s efforts to combat the Ebola Virus and will continue to work with them to ensure the long-term sustainability of a robust healthcare system. This is why we do what we do!

-Charles Redding

 

Liberia Needs Us

The following entry was written by Charles Redding, CEO & President of MedShare.

Never before has the need for organizations like MedShare and MAP been so evident than liberia_1what I witnessed today. I am currently in Liberia along with Steve Stirling, President & CEO of MAP International, and others to interact with Government Officials, the Business Community, the Private Sector and University Presidents to discuss ways we can collaborate to strengthen healthcare and social protection in Liberia with a focus on the role of NGOs and Universities. Our host for this incredible trip is H.E. Joseph N. Boakai, Sr., Vice President of the Republic of Liberia. Liberia is a focus country for MedShare, so this trip is especially important and strategic for me.

Before I say more about what I experienced today it is best to start with some important events in Liberia’s recent history. Liberia’s population is approximately 3 million with its capital located in Monrovia where about 20% of the population resides. In 1989 civil war erupted, ending seven years later with the Abuja Peace Accords. In 1999 the government of Charles Taylor was accused of supporting rebels in Sierra Leone, and it fought a border war with Guinea in 2000. Taylor was forced into exile in 2003, and the new government, under the leadership of Africa’s first elected female president in 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, vowed to rebuild the nation. The rebuilding process was well underway until the Ebola Crisis peaked in 2014. Liberia’s health system was ill-equipped to handle such a devastating outbreak and countless lives were lost. In June 2016, the WHO declared the end of Ebola virus transmission in the Republic of Guinea and in Liberia.

Now back to what I witnessed today that confirmed the need for critical medical supplies, equipment, medicines and training to rebuild capacity in order to address a number of recurring health issues. After a brief stay in Monrovia where we received an auspicious liberia_2welcome and a brief day of rest after a long journey, both Steve and I along with his wife, Sook Hee, and members of the MAP local office departed Monrovia for Nimbo and Bong Counties bordering Guinea. It took us about 3.5 hours to reach our first destination, which was the Ganta Rehabilitation Center where patients were recovering from Leprosy, Buruli Ulcers and Tuberculosis. All highly infectious diseases, but easily treatable with the proper supplies, medicines and treatment. One-by-one these patients recovering from these debilitating diseases greeted us with smiles, curiosity and songs of hope as we watched healthcare workers struggle to treat them with very limited supplies and openly pleaded with us to send more supplies and medicines. They thanked both MedShare and MAP for the supplies and medicines we had donated to the center, but were very passionate about their need for more. They also cited the lack of training and often depended on visiting doctors to train them. The Nuns that were attending to the patients had been sent there from Tanzania. The center housed about 150 patients and many waited in line to receive their daily changes of bandages and dressings that were in limited supply. It was extremely difficult for me to view these cases, for they were like nothing I had ever witnessed before. I quickly turned my thoughts to what can be done to improve this situation and countless others like this that exist. We have the supplies and MAP can get the medicines. We just need to get it in the hands of those who can make a difference!

Our next stop was to Phebe Hospital where we met with Dr. G. Gorbee Logan, the Bong County Health Officer. MedShare last sent a container to this hospital in 2004 and they received some of the supplies from our Ebola shipments. Dr. Logan’s plea was not for the hospital, but for a former leprosy colony that had been ostracized from society. The residents had been cured of the disease but not accepted back into society. They continued to live in the colony isolated from others with little to no help in dealing with health, education and recovering back to the person they were before the disease. One could not help but be moved by the passionate plea of the doctor. We quickly departed Phebe Hospital and headed for the colony to meet the people of this community and share words of hope. What we saw cannot be fully explained in words. On the surface, the community seemed like any other community – kids playing, mothers cooking and washing clothes, men collecting wood, etc. Except that many were not able to get around or move at all due to complications from the disease. Generations of children had been born in this former leprosy colony, because their parents and grandparents were not accepted. All too often we think that treatment stops once the disease is cured, and do not consider what is needed for patients to fully recover. Although neither Steve nor I had anything to send beyond, perhaps, some mobility units, we both committed to share this with other NGOs that had social welfare programs needed for this community. Simple skills training, farming, water and other social welfare programs would help immensely. With all of this suffering and isolation, the kids crowded us to share smiles and pose for pictures. They did not seem to have a care in the world. This gave me hope…

Our trip was completed and we started our 3.5 hour journey back to Monrovia. I was left with many thoughts as to why things were this way and what could we do to really make a difference. My heart is heavy but I am encouraged that we can indeed help to change the circumstances for many of the people we encountered today. They deserve better! The songs we heard while patients waited forliberia_3 their bandages to be changed and the smiles from children oblivious to their circumstances energized me to do more and confirmed that Liberia will truly recover one day. It will take government, private and public sectors working together for the good of the global community. I can hardly wait for our meeting with the Minister of Health later this week.

 

-Charles Redding

 

Healing One Patient at a Time in Guatemala

The following entry was written by Viktoria Valikova, medical doctor, founder of Health & Help, and returning MedTeam leader.

l35a1955-edit-livejournalWe started our project in Guatemala about a year ago. The choice of country was not a coincidence – my first mission was with a Belgian NGO when I came to Guatemala and left my heart here.

We started to build a clinic in a small place called Chuinajtajuyub. It is a mountain village with a primarily indigenous Mayan population. The villagers, especially women and kids, don’t speak Spanish, our local language here is Kiche. For a population of more than 15,000, which includes ours and nearby villages, there is no health center, hospital or any other medical facility.

We are building our clinic with the help of the community; every day five local men come to the construction site as volunteers.

To prepare the local population for the idea that they will have permanent medical care, we opened a health post in the same school where we currently live. Our doctors and nurses are all volunteers who came with the same belief – to make this world a better place. They work without compensation, without any financial support, bringing bags full of donated medication and equipment from their home countries to keep us afloat.

I am a very lucky person. I had a very happy childhood; my parents were always with me, I always had food to eat, a warm bed, clean clothes to wear and all the opportunities in the world. I went to a great tuition-free school. I didn’t pay for my University. I had the best affordable health insurance. Right after my residence I got a nice job in the ER at a large hospital. I am a very lucky person.

On my first mission to Guatemala, I met the local people. Beautiful, smart, active, full of smiles. Some of them don’t eat food regularly. Most of them don’t have money to pay a doctor. But all of them deserve to be treated like humans.

operation

Me, our people, you, – we were way more fortunate in this life than millions of people living in poverty. I strongly believe that it’s a great thing –  to share. We can donate some time, donate some money, donate some of our kindness to make these people’s lives happier.

We are fighting for medical care for people that never in their lives have seen a doctor. We treat malnourished kids, we monitor pregnant women, we attend to emergencies and we run programs for chronic patients. We work 24/7 and we believe that we make a difference. And we want to thank MedShare for making this world better with us.

When we came to the MedShare office together with Karina Basharova, our project manager, all the personnel treated us like family. We were getting medical supplies that will save lives for thousands of people and everyone in the room understand it. It is not just syringes or bandages; for us, it is healing one sick kid and providing prenatal care for one expectant mother at a time.

– Viktoria Valikova

l35a1935-edit-livejournal

Viktoria stocks the clinic with MedShare supplies that will save lives in Guatemala.