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Ecuador Impact Trip: Caring for Communities

The following entries were written by 2018 Impact Trip team member, Pat Shepherd. She is an Administrative Director at Sutter Health and leads Sutter’s Supply Chain Services for their Bay Area Operating Unit. She has been a tireless advocate for MedShare’s mission and has established an infrastructure within Sutter in support of our hospital recovery program. This is Pat’s first Impact Trip with MedShare. See her last post here.

 

San Carlos

On this final day of our trip we visited Ingenious San Carlos, where there is a sugar cane factory, a hospital, and school all run by the sugar factory management.

We were honored during a ceremony where wheelchairs were distributed to those with severe neurological or ambulatory disorders.  The gratefulness expressed by the recipients and their families was overwhelming and brought us to tears.  Some had wheelchairs that were extremely old and falling apart and others had no wheelchairs at all – their family members had to carry them around.  A device that is so common and easily obtainable in the US was a treasure to these patients!

We later toured the hospital and school supported and run by the sugar cane factory.  An arrangement reminiscent of an old coal mining town in the US about 100 years ago.  We had to puzzle through this arrangement too, but clearly the services were high caliber in contrast to the surrounding areas. At the school, we visited the computer lab and witnessed the students learning English and music.

The company-run hospital was clean and organized.  We toured the pharmaceutical storeroom and were informed that MedShare had a hand in securing much needed medications.

 

Heading Home

We are on our way home with time for contemplation.  My takeaways were two…. I was completely naive about the complexities of delivering supplies and equipment to underserved populations.  To be effective it literally “takes a village”.  There are no distribution centers to ship product to, and in fact, there are very few countries where shipping a container is safe.  The need for partnerships in recipient countries is essential to both identify the specific needs and to deliver product to the final destination.

My other “aha” was that the benefit of donations can be indirect.  The girls school in Alausi is a prime example.  Supporting the organization of Junta frees up some of their resources which allows them to create a healthier community by educating girls.  One has to take a holistic view.

I am so grateful that I was offered a chance to go on this trip and feel so “wise” for accepting it.  “Thank you”,  MedShare, for including me.

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Ecuador Impact Trip: Donations Doing More

The following entries were written by 2018 Impact Trip team member, Pat Shepherd. She is an Administrative Director at Sutter Health and leads Sutter’s Supply Chain Services for their Bay Area Operating Unit. She has been a tireless advocate for MedShare’s mission and has established an infrastructure within Sutter in support of our hospital recovery program. This is Pat’s first Impact Trip with MedShare. See her first post here.

 

Visiting Hogar Calderón Ayluardo

Our drive to the Andes town of Alausi was over six hours, round trip.  In this isolated town is a girls’ school for students from 6-17 years of age.  These girls aren’t orphans, but come from homes throughout Ecuador that struggle to provide for them.  It was clear that the nuns had become their surrogate mothers.

What an uplifting experience we all had!  We each came away with far more than we could give with our modest personal donations.   Rows of beds adorned with teddy bears provided by Junta, illustrated the loving atmosphere.  Every girl seemed happy, physically well-cared for and confident.

What was MedShare’s role in this school?  I wondered at first since there seemed to be very little need for medical supplies.  But by the end if the trip, the puzzle pieces came together.  MedShare’s donation of supplies to Junta frees them to provide funding to the school.  So, while it is indirect, there was no doubt in our minds that the education and caring of these girls has a very positive effect on the overall health of Ecuador.

 

Visiting Damien House

During our Impact visit to Ecuador, we visited the Damien House run by Sister Ann.  This House provides diagnosis, treatment and, for some, a place to live for those afflicted with Hansen disease, also known as leprosy.

We were all so moved by the sense of “family” that emanated from the home.  It was quite apparent that Sister Ann created a loving and healing environment for those who were rejected by their own families and communities.  The residents created wonderful artwork which was proudly displayed in the walls and for sale to visitors. Everyone greeted us warmly, seemed happy and well cared-for.

The common thread of this visit to Damien House and to the others during our Impact trip is the relationship to Junta.  As our partner, Junta redistributes the container of supplies sent to them by MedShare and assures that the appropriate supplies get in the hands of those who serve the neediest.

 

Read more from Pat Shepherd on #ImpactEcuador…

Ecuador Impact Trip: The Power of Strategic Partnerships

The following entry was written by 2018 Impact Trip team member, Pat Shepherd. She is an Administrative Director at Sutter Health and leads Sutter’s Supply Chain Services for their Bay Area Operating Unit. She has been a tireless advocate for MedShare’s mission and has established an infrastructure within Sutter in support of our hospital recovery program. This is Pat’s first Impact Trip with MedShare.

 

MedShare Impact Trip, Day 1:

We visited Junta de Beneficencia de Guayaquil’s main office where we learned about the organization’s 130 year history of delivering healthcare for the underserved in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and its surrounding areas.

Junta’s Director, Ernesto Noboa, shared with the MedShare delegation its rich history and its current situation.  It delivers medical care in its four hospitals, runs two orphanages and two homes for the elderly, and finally provides two cemeteries – a cradle to grave continuum of caring.  Junta is the largest not for profit healthcare organization in Latin America.

We were very impressed with the efficiency and professionalism of the Junta-run and supported care sites.  Because of its performance, the organization has been enlisted by the Ecuadorian government to run four hospitals.  One hundred percent of Ecuador’s lottery net proceeds are used to fund medical services.  However, these funds are not sufficient to meet the care of Guayaquil’s medically needy.

Although services have significantly increased due to a governmental policy of the universal healthcare, we learned that the new administration has not been paying Junta and others resulting in very significant financial stress. Our shipments of supplies and equipment are needed now more than ever.

 

Earthquake in Ecuador

In April of 2016, a 7.8 earthquake shook Ecuador, which resulted in nearly 700 deaths and thousands of injuries.  The hardest hit area was in the northern part of the country bordering Colombia.  Its distant and remote location made delivering much needed medical supplies a dangerous mission.  The roads are treacherous and the drive to Esmeralda is unsafe due to drug trafficking activities.  It is also the home of the most underserved community – former African slaves.

Without Junta’s partnership, it would have been impossible for MedShare to deliver urgently needed medical supplies.   MedShare quickly mobilized and delivered a container of supplies to Ecuador where they were received by Junta and directly delivered via truck over the difficult and dangerous nine hour drive to the devastated site.  In addition to its quick response, MedShare provided the expertise in helping Junta develop a list of needed supplies that were appropriate for the immediate response after an earthquake.

On this Impact trip, we received a taste of Junta’s organization, its capabilities and the difficulties they faced in delivering the MedShare supplies.  It was clear to all of us that without this strategic partnership – the all-important “boots on the ground” – MedShare could not reach the earthquake victims.  For me, the trip to the mountainous Andes was an eye-opener.  I certainly was naive to the complexities of getting the supplies – I was so instrumental in collecting at my hospitals – to their final destination for patient care. Working together, the two organizations demonstrated the true meaning of the word “partnership”.

 

Read more from Pat Shepherd on #ImpactEcuador…

The Path to Healing & Helping in Guatemala

The following entry was written by Victoria Valikova, medical doctor and founder of Health & Help. It is a follow-up piece to Victoria’s first post. Health & Help recently opened their clinic in Chuinajtajuyub, Guatemala with the help of MedShare.

When you realize that you have the power to change something, you have two paths you can take from that moment on: go home and forget about what you just saw, or go and change something.

Health & Help’s people are dreamers. We dreamed about what we could do here in Guatemala, in a remote village called Chuinajtajuyub. So we built a clinic, a clinic that would spend every day, 7/24, attending to people in need.

We started from the very basic: we opened a health facility in a local school. Now we have a clinic with three consultation rooms, a laboratory, a pharmacy, and three beds for our in-patient room. Volunteers live on-site and provide permanent support in emergency situations. We assist deliveries, suture machete cut wounds, and help severely sick patients every day. Quickly, we became the number one health center in our area. People are sure when they come to us they will get help and support.

Health & Help Clinic works with severely malnourished kids and elderly people. We provide education and treatment for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. We promote family planning and we take care of pregnant women in every trimester of pregnancy.

We have a nice team of professionals and we’re always searching for more volunteers to work with us. If you are interested to work in Guatemalan mountain village – please contact us at viktoriya.valikova@gmail.com.

Last, but not least: we have a great friend, their name is MedShare. They make our work so much easier because with them we don’t have to worry about running out of medical supplies. We always have materials to take care of our patients. We are always sure that we will be able to help, because of them.

From Guatemala with love,

Victoria

Medshare Aids Women’s Healthcare in Micronesia

The following entry was written by Juliane Poirier, a team member with Canvasback Missions,  a Medical Mission Team supplied by MedShare.

Canvasback Missions, of Benicia, California, was recently aided by Medshare in sending a well-supplied team of U.S. health professionals to Micronesia, Feb. 3 – 17, 2017. Canvasback’s 20 volunteers operated a free women’s health clinic on Majuro, capital of the RMI (Republic of the Marshall Islands).

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The clinic waiting room was packed with patients. During the two-week clinic, medical volunteers provided more than 450 medical consultations while simultaneously teaching Marshallese nurse-practitioner students, who translated for patients and staff. The needs were great, both among the nursing students and the patients eager to be seen by a doctor.

A clinic worker on her first trip to the islands described being touched not only by the beauty of the islands, but by the kindness and generosity of the Marshallese. It was reported, for example, that not one person complained at the clinic, even though they were obliged to wait their turn for much longer than would be tolerated in the U.S. A number of Marshallese women waited patiently for up to 10 hours—including those well past middle-age— to been examined for the first time in their lives by a gynecologist.

Some had suffered for years with afflictions requiring medical procedures not routinely available to them on their remote home islands. A 25-pound cyst was removed from one woman’s ovaries and, unrelated to gynecology, a 55-year old male was relieved of pain from a severe liver abscess when our radiologist drained 40 cc. from the man’s liver. The Canvasback physicians also worked cooperatively with Marshallese doctors at the Majuro Hospital on a number of patient diagnoses which were aided by the ultrasound, cytology and radiation results provided by medical volunteers.

 

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Overall, there were 34 operations performed, 711 clinical procedures completed, and 61 medications dispensed in the course of the clinic, as our team diagnosed many cases of cervical cancer which, in the U.S. is considered a preventable disease.

“Most women can avoid cervical cancer by routine screenings,” explained Canvasback volunteer Kathy Nelson, a gynecologist from Montana.

One 40-year-old woman who came to the clinic was diagnosed with cervical cancer so advanced that she had only months to live. Marshallese women diagnosed with cervical cancer must have more than a 50 percent survival expectation in order to be sent, at RMI government expense, to an off-island location for treatment; otherwise, they are provided with palliative care.

In this isolated region of the Pacific, diabetes is epidemic among both old and young. But positive changes are taking place to extend the health and vitality of Marshall Islanders. Canvasback runs a Wellness Center on Majuro, providing diabetes prevention education, affordable and healthy meals, exercise classes in an air-conditioned gym, and educational materials for improved lifestyle habits, including vegetable gardening.

Canvasback Missions has been sending medical specialty teams and supplies to Micronesia for over 35 years. Medshare has been helping tremendously with supply donations to help Canvasback teams provide critically needed healthcare for people of these remote Pacific islands.

 

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Racing in the Rain

The following post was written by Jalal Clemens, MedShare Western Regional Council Member and Young Professionals Committee Chair

We had quite the adventure this past Saturday morning at the Mt. Tam Wild Boar 10K. Despite the cold light rain all of the MedShareFundraising Run Team members showed up early and ready to go. After the race director Dave gave all the runners an overview of the course one of our team members was pulled out of the crowd to help Dave, the race director, lead the whole field of runners in “America the Beautiful,” a tradition for these special trail runs.

The course itself was simply stunning as we ran along a muddy single-track trail cut into the side of the newly green mountain slope near the Bolinas ridgeline topping out with Mt. Tamalpais. As we came around the first curve we were treated with a view of the ocean crashing on the beach and cliffs, nearly 1,000 feet below us, enhanced by the occasional patch of beautifully formed fog mini clouds. The amazing view caused me to forget the near freezing temperatures and cold light rain that had encouraged us to start at such a brisk pace just to warm up.

We weaved into the pockets of the mountain where wonderfully fragrant evergreen trees grew and, at the inner crease, beautiful waterfalls begged for us to ford them. As we continued along the trail I realized I could not think of a more perfect way to experience movement through nature. With the repeated stunning views of ocean and waterfalls along a graceful ribbon of earth, the first five miles blew by in what seemed like only a minute.

As I arrived at the 5 mile aid station in a near trancelike state of joy, despite the increasing intensity of the cold windblown rain, I sadly realized I only had a little over a mile left. Noticing the tight vertical switchbacks staring at me past the cheerful volunteers snapped me back into the reality that the last mile was not going to be like the first 5 transcendent downhill loops.

Powering up the switchbacks, I gradually slowed to a shuffle and then a walk as the course began to more closely resemble stairs than a trail. Finally, I saw I was nearing the crest of the hill. Summoning my reserves I burst out of the trees into driving hail, yes, small balls of speeding bouncing ice, that chased me the last .2 miles soaked and now thoroughly exfoliated.

As members of our MedShare fundraising Running Team team crossed the finish line, only a few minutes apart, the team exploded in cheers as we all hopped and huddled trying to stay warm under the few little tents protecting the post-race snacks and water. For some, it was their first race ever and I was so happy to see they enjoyed the truly unique climate experience this unusual race provided. After one last team photo we all darted for our cars, still proudly wearing our soaking MedShare team hats and shirts – headed home for a hot bath we would appreciate as likely never before, already warmed inside by knowing our fundraising efforts would help repurpose and send unused and unexpired much needed medical supplies to underserved people globally and locally.

Renewed Hope in Marsabit, Kenya

The following post was written by Henry Kahara for The Reject Newspaper, a monthly publication of the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service. See original article here.

A few years ago, residents of Marsabit County couldn’t find a reason to visit their district hospital even for basic medical care.

The hospital, meant to serve a huge number of the county’s population was in ruins. The staff were overworked, departments under-equipped and, understaffed.

Although the hospital staff strived to provide the best care for the patients under the circumstances, with lack of equipment and supplies necessary to do the jobs they had been trained to do, their efforts were a drop in the ocean.

However, thanks to collaboration between Marsabit County Government, Partners for Care, Medshare and Coca Cola Africa Foundation, the residents now have a reason to smile.

According to Connie Cheren, founder Partners for Care who spearheaded a project that saw the hospital acquire a new phase, it took a collaborative efforts that saw stakeholders do an overhaul on every department to give the hospital a total face-lift.

Cheren who is a nurse in the USA, mobilized different stakeholders after learning of the hospital’s sorry state. She explains: “Once during a visit to the hospital, I realised the locals hardly made hospital visits. My quest to find out why women particularly were shying away from delivering at the hospital, led to a shocking discovery.”

Says Cheren: “There were old broken and rusty beds at the hospital and almost half of the patients’ beds didn’t have mattresses.”

Cheren notes: “In addition, most of the machines at the hospital were dysfunctional and it was difficult to offer even the basic care needed for a woman to deliver. My heart bled and I felt inclined to do something to change the situation.”

Cheren’s efforts led her to get the support of Medshare, a humanitarian organization dedicated to improving quality of life for people by sourcing and directly delivering surplus medical supplies and equipment to communities in need around the world.

Coca Cola Africa Foundation joined on board to form a strong partnership. Medshare donated beds and equipment to the hospital whereas Coca Cola African Foundation funded the shipping and transport to Marsabit.

Former Chief Executive Officer of Marsabit Hospital, Dr Dima Galogalo recalls how health providers at the time would refuse to be stationed at the hospital.

“Things were so bad that at times patients would die from curable diseases. Many organisations had come before promising help that eventually would not be forth coming,” explains Galogalo. He recalls: “So when Cheren and partners pledged to assist the hospital, we were at first naturally sceptical.”

However, Galogalo decided to talk to his team and as that they give the partnership a chance “as any help was better than none”.

Help at last!

In August 2013, the first container with equipment arrived to the disbelief of the hospital team. This changed everything about the hospital including the number of patients coming for treatments.

Galogalo, who is currently Marsabit County Health Director, says the hospital services have greatly improved, so much so that now the hospital serves patients from as far as Moyale among other areas.

“Now, we can afford to offer high quality medical services thanks to Medshare, Coca Cola Africa Foundation and Partners for Car,” he notes.

With the demand for medical services having gone a notch higher, the Marsabit County Government has further chipped in and equipped the hospital with 10 ambulances, a great improvement from the one broken down ambulance they had originally.

Maria Elema, nurse-in- charge at Marsabit County Hospital says before the improvement at the hospital, the maternity wing especially experienced great difficulties.

“Women had to come with their own gloves among other basic supplies needed for delivery,” says Elema. She explains: “The risk of infection coupled by a low bed capacity posed a major health risk to both mothers and babies.”

Elema notes: “This discouraged many women from seeking delivery services at the hospital, but today the narrative has changed.”

The hospital is currently managing more than 120 deliveries every month, which translates to four deliveries daily compared to before when on a good month the numbers were at 50

In addition, the hospital has baby warmers and this face-lift has gone a long way in reducing not only maternal mortality but also neonatal death.

The partnership also equipped the hospital with furniture and computers to collect accurate data. Previously, the hospital had shut down their therapy department but with the donated equipment, the services have since resumed.

Abshiro Hapicha, Chief Executive Officer at the hospital says they now have state-of-the-art equipment. Some of these include all new electric beds, mechanical lifts, walkers, canes, wheelchairs, braces, hundreds of boxes of much needed supplies such as bandages, gloves and protective clothing for staff among other basic items.

According to Hapicha, Marsabit County Hospital has struggled for years to serve the overwhelming needs of the 200,000 people in its district. Even health practitioners would shy away from working in such a locality. However, the odds have since changed and in 2016, the Marsabit County Government established a fund to entice local students to pursue medical courses to deal with the severe shortage of health workers.

Now the residents of Marsabit County have renewed hope with quality medical services in place.