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…

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.

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.