Addressing cholera in Haiti

The ongoing Haiti cholera outbreak is the worst epidemic of cholera in recent history, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a little over two years it has killed more than 7,900 Haitians and hospitalized hundreds of thousands. With this in mind, MedShare’s Western Regional Council decided to support St. Damien’s Hospital in Haiti by raising funds to ship them critically-needed medical aid. These supplies have already made a significant impact at the hospital. MedShare recently received this note of appreciation from our friend Wynn Walent, St. Damien’s National Director Assistant. Please take a moment to read his positive feedback, and see what we are able to accomplish together.

“We really do appreciate your support a great deal! So many of our patient’s lives are touched by the enormous support of MedShare. We are grateful for the friendship and resources provided by MedShare and are happy to share one such example.

The Paul family came to our cholera treatment center from roughly two hours away, just North of the rural town of Kenscoff. Two of the Paul children, ages 2 and 4, had come down suddenly with symptoms of cholera and were severely dehydrated upon arrival. Shortly after arrival, Mimause, the mother of the young children, also came down with symptoms. Thanks to the generous support of MedShare, not only was our pediatric center well stocked and prepared for the children, but our adult center was able to provide life saving treatment to Mimause as well.

As the cholera epidemic has faded from the headlines, funding our cholera efforts has become more and more difficult, and thanks to the support of MedShare, we’ve been able to see over 35,000 patients since the end of 2010. Essential donations such as IV sets and catheters have been essential to this work. In addition, medical equipment such as scales, infant warmers, pulse oximeters, and oxygen concentrators allow our staff to provide the highest level of care for our patients. MedShare’s system of ordering and delivering is incredibly efficient and effective and we always receive only what we requested. The supplies are high quality and well organized on delivery. We can’t thank MedShare enough for their vital support!”

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MedShare Ships Containers of Humanitarian Aid to Ecuador and Haiti

Canton Pablo Sexto, Ecuador

On August 4, MedShare shipped one container of medical humanitarian aid for Canton Pablo Sexto, Ecuador from the West Coast Regional Distribution Center last week. The container is carrying over 11,000 lbs of medical supplies that were individually selected by local doctors in the region. Canton Pablo Sexto is located in Morona-Santiago Province in the Ecuador’s eastern region, where medical supplies are scarce.  Included on the container were oropharyngeal airways, ambu bags, cotton swabs, OR gowns, TB syringes, surgical gloves, suction pumps, exam lights, an electrosurgical unit, and more.

Haiti

On August 10, MedShare’s Southeastern Regional Distribution Center loaded and shipped a 40 foot container filled with medical humanitarian aid for Haiti.  The container is carrying over 1,200 boxes of medical supplies which will be used by Zanmi Lasante (a.k.a. Partners in Health) to treat victims of the deadly resurgence of cholera in Haiti.  Some of the items on the container include:  blankets, sheets, adult diapers, gauze, gloves, paper towels, mattresses, and an oral rehydration solution called Drip Drop which was shipped to us from the donor for this container.

Thanks very much to all our partners who contributed to making these projects a reality!

AWDF and Hope Floats Initiative Sends Container to Cameroon

Cameroon

On May 13,  MedShare’s Southeastern Regional Distribution Center loaded and shipped a 40 foot shipping container with medical humanitarian aid for Cameroon, West Africa.  This was a joint project organized by the African Women’s Development Foundation (AWDF) and the Hope Floats Initiative.

The container is carrying over 17,000 lbs of medical supplies and equipment, such as gauze, iodine, surgical instrument sets, emergency laryngeal airways, surgical masks, Patient Energy Transport vehicles, hospital beds, a surgical table, blood pressure monitors, and much more.

A large portion of the items will be donated to Limbe Regional Hospital in the Southwest province of Cameroon, where a recent outbreak of cholera has claimed over 98 lives, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.  The Hospital has been overwhelmed with cholera cases in recent weeks and desperately needs the additional beds, Drip Drop Oral Rehydration Solution and other donated items that will be arriving.

The other supplies that were shipped on the container are earmarked for use by a team of physicians and nurses traveling from the US and Nigeria to Cameroon on a medical mission organized by the AWDF and Hope Floats Initiative.  The team will be providing free medical care to needy families by setting up mobile surgical and consultation centers.

Please see below for photos of the container send-off celebration:

Sending the container off

MedShare's Eben Amstrong and AWDF members pointing to Cameroon

Cameroon native and MedShare employee Eben Amstrong with equipment being shipped

Wheelchairs on the shipment

beds on the shipment

(Another) Letter from the field: St. Damien Hospital, Haiti

Father Rick Frechette

MedShare supports St. Damien Hospital, the premier pediatric hospital in Haiti that provides all services free of charge.  Currently, the hospital is overwhelmed with cholera cases.

As he did in November, St. Damien Doctor and Mission Director Father Rick Frechette wrote another letter describing the situation in Haiti that we wanted to share with you:

Dear Friends,

Gaudete, in Domino semper!
Rejoice in the Lord, always!

These words that begin mass today, the third Sunday of Advent, give rise to the name “Gaudete Sunday”. Today is unusual in that it is one of only two Sundays of the year where the priest wears pink vestments.

Since the normal color for both advent and lent is purple, (for contrition, woundedness and preparation), we well might consider pink a “softer purple.” Its not the gold or white of the usual rejoicing, but rather there still is an element of the drudgery. And yet a happy escape from it too. “Christmas is close, the Savior is near, take a moment to breath, don’t weaken.”

I am up earlier than planned, at 1 am, because off the death of a child in our cholera camp. Our camp is called “St Philomena,” after Sister Philomena Perreault who helped us in Haiti for so many years. As we light the pink candle of the advent wreath in a few more hours, we will also remember one more life that was snuffed out by a dreadful disease, and the tears and crying of the mother. We are all the poorer for this death, for every death.

Purple is also a part of the black and blue of the healing injury, the bleed under the skin. It’s a good color to represent the people of Haiti this year who have received more than their fair share of life’s blows.

Back to our camp. You have to try to imagine the 16 huge tents, spread out on gravel, extension chords bringing feeble power everywhere. Two washing machines under a tent, filled by buckets, dumping into a big dug hole, wash endless loads of sheets stained with deadly diarrhea. Twenty to thirty people a day are carried in, floppy bodies, by hook or by crook, even in these days of riots they somehow break through barricades. Rivers of Ringers Lactate flow through our endless tubing to revive them. Most do well. In fact, of almost 900 people who have come to us sick, only 15 have died of cholera. This is sad, yet we are encouraged that most people by far have fought and done well. None of our staff have contracted cholera after these many weeks of intense work, nor have we tracked it into our St Damien or St Luke hospital.

Still, our supplies run out, we can’t manage too much on site for emergencies, resuscitation, special medicines or tests, tension run high, tight nerves in strained doctors and patients make for a good bit of drudgery. But, we put Tang in our rehydration drinks, a Christmas tree and other lights try to make the nights a little festive, we have a big TV for those who are able to sit up and watch it and forget life for a while, and we try to keep everyone supplied with wonderful Christmas presents: a bar of soap, some toothpaste, a toothbrush, a towel.

I mentioned in a previous message the many medical challenges: the pregnant woman with cholera, the baby born in a cholera tent, the patients with heart disease who need loads of fluid fast and whose hearts can’t handle it. We had another unusual challenge: a prisoner with cholera was brought at midnight. The police wanted us to handcuff him to his cot. We refused. It is cruel to cuff a sick patient to a hospital bed. Crueler still to chain someone with massive diarrhea to a bed.

So the police kept watch instead. During the following afternoon, the prisoner said to the police he had to go down to the toilettes, and off he went with his hospital gown and carrying his IV bag high in the air. And he kept going, and going…and that was that, right out the gate. He escaped in a hospital gown with his IV in hand.

You have read of the riots these days. I spent two afternoons in the middle of them, driving around town picking up people we needed to help us. Imagine the problems riots bring in addition to being riots. You have 16 portable toilettes for cholera-diarrhea and the honey truck can’t pass through the streets to empty them. It’s not pretty. Your doctors and nurses can’t get to work. Stores are closed for days, in case you need more toilette paper, soap, laundry detergent, food, Tang, or cash.

The way we got around the city was something. I made an arrangement with 20 thugs, for a day’s pay. They were leaders in the riots in our part of the city. Three went ahead of my truck on motorcycles, and 17 rode with us in the back. We drove through the burning and barricaded city, while they pushed barricades out of the way and tangled with anyone who tried to stop us. It worked so well, I also did it the next day. It’s how we got essential staff to the hospital and the tents. Needless to say from the burning tires and debris we were covered with soot, so hard to get out that even after three showers we looked like we were wearing mascara.

As if this weren’t trying enough, the skies turned gray for two days, and drizzled lightly, not enough to put out the fires but enough that our hundred of washed sheets wouldn’t’dry. And when the sun finally did come out, so did small hornets, by the thousands, and they covered us. Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. Ask Patty Rowland, who is back for a second round of 10 days to help at St Philomena.

Purple?  Yes.
Just the right color.

Pick today?
Yes, very welcome.

Gaudete? Rejoice?
Yes, We still find the way.
I trust you do too.

Hope is the key, and it really does spring eternal.

As always, count on our thanks and prayers, in exchange for yours. Thanks for the help that keeps us going and not doing too badly. Merry Christmas as it gets very near.

Fr Rick Frechette CP

For more information on MedShare’s ongoing relief efforts in Haiti or to donate, visit our Help for Haiti page.

(photo via nph.org)