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.

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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

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

 

 

Emily Rymland Bringing Hope in Duffle Bags

The following entry was written by Emily Rymland, Nurse Practitioner at the East Bay AIDS Center in Oakland, California and Medical Director for Em’s Clinic in Uganda.

Each day, I work as a nurse practitioner at The East Bay AIDS Center in Oakland. That is my day job. My other, most amazing job, is as the medical Director for Em’s Clinic in Kiryabicooli, Uganda. In January, 2014, I was invited at the last minute to help a team of nurses and a pharmacist who were going to the bush in Uganda to have a medical camp for a week.

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After serving 1700 people who would otherwise receive no care at all, it really hit my heart. As I was flying home, back to my normal, abundant life, it became apparent that one week was not enough. It was in that moment that I decided to raise the funds necessary to build a clinic in Kyribicooli that is staffed by Uganda health care providers. It is open every day and affordable.

I had no idea what I was doing! “Learning as you go” was an understatement.

Somehow, after talking and talking, I was able to raise the funds through private donors, to build a building and hire a staff. But wait… what about the stuff?! What about the supplies to fill the shelves? As a private person raising money from private donors I needed to learn resources that would allow me to give the healthcare providers the supplies that they need to do their jobs! A nurse friend of mine told me about Medshare…a place that would allow me to get much-needed supplies for very little money. Amazing!

The first time I visited Medshare, I was amazed. I was thrilled as I walked through the warehouse, seeing all of the supplies that would allow me to open the doors. In addition to getting the supplies, the staff helped me to determine what I needed and what made the most sense to bring.

Each time I fly, I am allowed to carry two 50 lb. bags on the airline for free. Each January, I take a team of about 12 medical providers to help with care at the clinic and further out in the bush. The supplies include instruments, bandages, sutures, oh, so many supplies! Our shelves are stocked.

This would not have happened in such a timely affordable manner without MedShare. It’s because of MedShare that we are able to provide the care to our patients for such an affordable rate. We serve a population that is considered one of the poorest in the world. Our goal is to provide primary care, infectious disease care and prevention, health education and that which is most dear to my heart, HIV testing and linkage to care. Additionally, we are building a new HIV prevention program.

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The people of Kirybicooli are the most appreciative, kind and loving people that I have had the luck to work with and for. Our staff live next to our clinic so that care is available at any time of the day. These young health workers are 100% committed to serving their community. They have chosen to live a very isolated life in order to serve. So, it is so amazing when I bring the duffle bags to them. It’s like Christmas! They go through every single object and decide where it’s going live. Thanks to you, Medshare, our shelves are stocked and our patients are cared for.

-Emily Rymland

Robin Chalmers Finds Friends at MedShare

The following entry was written by Robin Chalmers, regular volunteer at MedShare’s Southeast Distribution & Volunteer Center

Sure, you give a few hours, but what do you get by volunteering at MedShare?

Six years ago when my youngest daughter was heading off to UGA to start college I decided that, as a research consultant who worked from home, I needed to build some added structure into my schedule. I had dabbled in volunteer gigs here and there, but I never felt that I had time to spare. I decided that I should spend it on something constructive instead of wasting it.

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So I headed to MedShare in South DeKalb County –I had been there a few times during the Haiti earthquake– and I started a routine of regular Wednesday night sort sessions. Although many volunteers come with a group, I had a job with quite a bit of travel, so I decided to venture by myself. I have never looked back. When you show up solo, it leaves fewer excuses to back out (my friend isn’t going so I won’t go, I can’t organize a buddy to go with me…). Let me tell you, if you show up at MedShare a handful of times by yourself you will find that you’ve made a few friends there before you know it.

For starters, our Volunteer Program Manager, Alvaro McRae, is one of the most open and welcoming people that I know. He’s the steady hand. I’ve seen him with a group of 4 volunteers and with a group of 80, always keeping his cool, patiently answering questions and keeping folks on task without them feeling rushed or pressured. You can quickly count him as a friend. Then, there is Dr. Moctar Bayor, who enlivens the room with a bark that is worse than his bite! All the while smiling and helping volunteers get it right. He’s also your friend before you know it.

But if you return to volunteer a few more times, you’ll make your own MedShare buddies. The sessions can be social or intense, but by the end of 3 hours the group has achieved something that is tangible and will help someone who is facing a health problem in an underserved area.

 

MedShare volunteers range widely in age (10 to 90 or so), neighborhood, race, ethnicity, and reasons for service. It is very easy in a large city like Atlanta to interact only with people like yourself. For me that would be oldish, “inside the perimeter” dwellers who also have empty nests. Without MedShare, I would rarely cross paths with the many new immigrants who come to volunteer, members of small and large churches, members of Beta Clubs in high school, Boy Scouts, expat clubs from Nigeria, college students, the list goes on and on. I admire and appreciate the effort every one has made and hope to see them there the next time.

-Robin Chalmers

Gracias MedShare!

The following update is from Dr. Carl Kihm, a podiatrist who leads regular medical mission teams in Nepal.

This afternoon’s San Juan climb was gentle, with rests for those interested in shopping along the way. “Bienvenidos” was politely repeated…each time, accompanied by the universal greeting of a genuine smile, inviting us inside.

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My pack got heavier as I supported the locals, picking up canvas reminders. Motorcycles zoomed by and watch out for the tuk tuk! Coolness of the higher elevation rewarded us as we reached the hilltop’s cathedral.
On descent, the trip was winding down too. We were delivered to Bonnie’s vista for a tranquil end to the evening. As the boat turned us back, Lake Atitlan saluted us with a sunset to remember. One last dinner together, we then reminisced. Fed and full, our hearts were expanded and full as well.

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The people of Guatemala remain in true need and the angels of MedShare are further inspired to improve the quality of life here. As a physician, I witnessed how this group’s far-reaching and worldly impact is greater than I could have in my stateside clinics. MedShare is truly improving healthcare systems and the lives for those across the world… in places where people need it the most.
Personally, it was the most special of honors to accompany MedShare’s great group and to be one of their ambassadors. Sadly, I now mentally prepare to say goodbye to my new friends who, without doubt, will be future partners in continued humanitarian efforts.

Thank you for the experience and life-changing Guatemalan perspective. I will sleep well tonight, more confident than ever, knowing that we are doing something very right which will have a continued and forever impact.
Dr. Carl Kihm

Notes from the Field: Annual Main Thing Trip

The following update is from Tom Asher, Past Chair of ‪MedShare‬’s Board of Trustees.

Our bus with the MedShare team on board pulled out of lovely Antiqua at 7:30 a.m. and quickly climbed the winding roads through the Guatemala mountains. Two hours later, we peaked a hill only to see magnificent Lake Atitlan stretched ahead of us surrounded by mountains and dormant volcanos. It was reminiscent of Lake Como with villas at the water’s edge. A 30 minute boat ride dropped us in the village of Tzununo where a new clinic served by MedShare was scheduled to open that day.

As soon as we disembarked, a helicopter hovered overhead, followed soon by a motorcade of soldiers and police. Out stepped the Honorable Jimmy Morales, president of Guatemala. Three hundred (300) villagers gathered excitedly under a tent to see their nation’s leader, witness the ribbon cutting ceremony and to hear generous compliments of Kimberly-Clark Corporation (United States) and MedShare, among the suppliers of medical supplies to the village’s new healthcare facility.

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(Pictured from left to right: Charlie Evans, MedShare Board of Trustees Chair; President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales; Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & president; and Tom Asher, Past Chair, MedShare Board of Trustees.)

After the formal ceremony, President Morales took the time to personally thank MedShare CEO, Charles Redding and Board Chair, Charlie Evans for MedShare’s contribution to his country.

And so ended a beautiful day in a remote lakeside Guatemalan community and appreciation of one of the best gifts that MedShare donors and volunteers could possibly give to these grateful villagers; the gift of health.

Tom Asher

For Goodness Sake Supports MedShare Impacting the Health and Quality of Life of People Around the World

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On May 4th, For Goodness Sake joined fellow change makers from Google, John Muir Health, Stanford Health Care and Sutter Health to support MedShare at their annual Talk & Taste event. The event, held at the Google Impact Hub, honored the works of 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Madame Leymah Gbowee and renown surgeon Dr. Assad Hassoun. We were thrilled to be a part of such an extraordinary gathering to help positively impact the quality of life and health of others.

Madame Gbowee connected with the audience on a very human level – her insights on how each community must not only accept and seek aid, but also, be the leaders of their own change was an inspirational message that resonated deeply with the For Goodness Sake team.

In light of the devastating earthquake and aftermath in Nepal, the event could not have been timelier.  We collectively raised funds to support MedShare’s efforts to collect and donate medical supplies to help the tens of thousands affected.

MedShare’s cause exemplifies what we can all accomplish by coming together through community engagement and collaboration.  Being surrounded by inspiring thought leaders heightened the For Goodness Sake team’s appreciation for the positive impact we can make, and we are excited to continue to strive to find new ways for everyone to give back every day.

Live Big. Love Hard. Give Back.

Fondly,

Pam Baer
Founder

Western Region Volunteers See MedShare’s Impact Firsthand at Hospital in Tanzania

From the moment that Medshare volunteers [in the Western Region] decided to raise the funds to ship a 40-foot container of medical supplies to Shirati, Tanzania, and I found out there was a possibility that volunteers could go to visit the hospital, I knew I wanted to be one of those volunteers. I actively participated in the fundraising for the container, contributing to the silent auction both in purchases and donations and also asking my friends and family for donations. And then my dream became reality as two other volunteers Fran Jurcso, Camille Harris, and I began our plans to travel to the hospital.

As we drove down the 18 miles of dirt road, four hours from the closest airport, we knew we were definitely in a very rural area. Dr. Chirangi welcomed us the day we arrived and took us on a tour of the hospital.

Our welcome to KMT Hospital.

Our welcome to KMT Hospital.

He pointed out all the equipment the hospital had received from Medshare in their previous shipment and excitedly showed us where all the new equipment would be going from the soon to be received container. Dr. Chirangi told us of all his immediate plans for additions to the hospital, and I realized what a difference receiving the supplies from Medshare would make to allow other money to go into the infrastructure of the hospital to meet more of their needs.

As we continued our tour and reached the different wards, I became very aware of the different experience one would have being hospitalized here rather than at home in the United States. There were simply four wards in the main hospital: men’, women, pediatric, and maternity. Each ward was simply one big room with barely an aisle to walk in between the beds.

The Pediatric Ward at KMT Hospital.

The Pediatric Ward at KMT Hospital.

There were no privacy curtains, patients were wearing their own clothes, visiting family members sat on the patients’ beds, and as the doctors examined incisions etc. the patient was exposed for all to see. Those recovering or waiting for surgery may be right next to someone with a contagious disease. The pediatric ward was so crowded we learned, that often they have to have two children per bed. Mosquito netting hung from the ceilings and the window openings had no glass in order to provide air circulation.

The highlight of the trip for me was when Dr. Chirangi invited us into the operating theatre to observe a surgery. After we put on our booties and masks (items I have sorted at MedShare) along with our scrubs we headed into the surgery room. It was early and the air conditioning had not yet been turned on. Shirati Blog Photos 4-Final-BlogWe had heard many stories about the surgery room with the leaking anesthesia machine, which is why there was a new one on the shipment about to arrive.

What we didn’t realize was that we would experience what it was like to be in the room with the leaky anesthesia machine. Before completely embarrassing myself by fainting and giving them an additional patient, I simply left the room a bit green and went and got some fresh air. By the time the second surgery began, the air conditioning was on and I could handle it.

The one sterilization machine used at the hospital, donated by MedShare.

The one sterilization machine used at the hospital, donated by MedShare.

It was amazing to watch all the medical supplies I have sorted the last two years of volunteering in action and see first hand what a difference it makes: the bovies and tips, the gauze, the scalpels, the sutures, etc., etc. We watched Dr. Chirangi remove an ovarian cyst the size of a small avocado, repair an umbilical hernia, and remove an appendix all from the same patient in about 30 minutes. He even asked Fran to hand him the #4 Vicryl sutures, which of course she knew from her sorting experience.

The news of the container arriving soon, had reached the community and everyone knew who we were as soon as we said we volunteered at Medshare. While we were there we had time to explore the community a bit and found wherever we walked, we soon had children following us, walking with us, talking to us and holding our hands. Everyone in the community was so friendly and welcoming and it made us wish it could be like that back home rather than fearing strangers. The children loved having us take their pictures with our digital cameras and showing it to them, as at home they had no mirrors and didn’t know what they looked like. In fact on our walk from where we stayed to the hospital, (about a half mile) we passed houses that had no indoor plumbing, no electricity, and no running water. We saw how much of the community lives and how families work hard, simply to survive. We saw students walking miles to and from school each day, women walking miles to Lake Victoria to carry water home, (on their head), and we went to the market to see how they buy their food.

When we left for Shirati, we believed we were going to visit the hospital, but little did we know that we would fall in love with people of the community and want to continue to help them. This trip was an amazing opportunity to see firsthand what our efforts at Medshare do for the communities around the world. It showed us how important it is for us to let others know about Medshare whether they are possible volunteers,  recipients, or teams that need supplies to take with them on medical missions.

“This trip was an amazing opportunity to see firsthand what our efforts at Medshare do for the communities around the world.”

At MedShare, we have listened to stories from doctors and nurses who return from similar areas after their medical missions. As amazing as their stories are, nothing was as incredible as us being there ourselves. Not having any medical experience, we felt privileged to have the opportunity to have this experience. If the opportunity is given to you, take it.

We would like to thank MedShare and all the volunteers who made this possible for us as well as AISCS (African Immigrants Social and Cultural Services) the NGO which funded the ground transportation for this container and also hosted us during our stay in Shirati.

Nancy Menne
Volunteer, MedShare’s Western Region Distribution Center
San Leandro, California

[Editor’s Note: The 40-foot container sponsored by the MedShare Western Region volunteers arrived at Shirati, Tanzania in early March 2014. Below are some of the photos of the container’s arrival at the hospital.

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MedShare’s Western Region volunteers have just started their second fundraising project, this time for a shipment to Sierra Leone.  You can read more about this project and make a donation here: http://medshare.donorpages.com/IshaSierraLeone/donatehere/.]