MedShare and Kimberly Clark Send Container to Colombia

Choco, Colombia

On Tuesday, December 21, 2010, MedShare’s Western Regional Distribution Center loaded and shipped out a 40 foot container of medical humanitarian aid for Colombia.  This shipment was generously sponsored by Kimberly Clark Corporation and Foundation out of a multi-year, multi-container grant for shipments of aid to Latin America.

This container is carrying over 13,000 lbs of medical supplies and equipment that will be distributed amongst two hospitals in the highly impoverished region of Chocó in the northwest of the country.  These hospitals, the Hospital Ismael Roblán and IPS Caprecom Hospital San Francisco de Asis, serve Colombia’s poorest citizens, and struggle with a lack of sufficient supplies and equipment.

The container shipped from MedShare yesterday is carrying wheelchairs, stretchers, exam tables, beds, Personal Energy Transport vehicles, crutches, and much more.

We’d like to sincerely thank Mrs. Elena De Bedout for her tireless support and advocacy for the underprivileged families of Colombia as well as everyone at the Kimberly Clark Colombia office for making this shipment possible!

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(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)

Letter from the field: St. Damien Hospital, Haiti.

Patients at St. Damien Hospital

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.

St. Damien Doctor and Mission Director Father Rick Frechette wrote a report describing the cholera situation in Haiti that we wanted to share with you:

Dear Friends,

I worked all night at our cholera treatment area, and during the night I saw a comparison I never would have imagined. Stepping out of the tents for fresh air from time to time, I saw the pearly white  crescent moon overhead, beautiful and calming. Inside the tents, also set against a deep darkness, the eyes of the most severe of the sick people have the same form. Eyes sunk deeply to that the whites of the eye stay below the upper eyelid, with the eye rolled upward toward the forehead. Two crescent moons. It is a scary sight to see the depth of the apathy and surrender, not an ounce of fight left. It is sadder still to see it in children.

The last time I wrote there were about 4,300 reported cases of cholera in Haiti. That number is climbing to 20,000 with 1000 deaths. I read reports that about 200,000 cases are anticipated before there is a decline. We are setting up two more tents of 16 cots each, which will put our small base at 100 beds. You can believe me that even 100 people represent enormous human suffering, as well as enormous devotion (and work!).

The public morgue will not accept bodies, for fear of cholera. You cannot even bring the garbage to the normal dump without getting stoned by the neighbours for fear of cholera. We are cremating our own dead. It is sobering to be the one to push the furnace button, after placing the child inside. All night I see how closely the parents cling to their children, accepting to sleep in the most difficult positions as they find the best way to hold their child. I watch them and admire them, but the in the case of the children I am sure will die, it seems so unfair that the children are slipping away from such tender arms. The last arms to hold them are mine, as I place them in the crematorium. The grief of the mothers is as difficult for us to take as the illness.

In the book of revelations, St John says he saw a woman “Clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” I still believe if there is a moon nearby, so is that special woman, who Christians believe to be with us in joys and in sorrows, and at the hour of our death.

Fr. Rick Frechette

Father Rick was also interviewed on the Univision Network last week to speak more about the sitiation. Click here to view the video.

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

Patients at St. Damien Hospital

Patients at St. Damien Hospital

Hope for Children of Afghanistan

Yesterday, Tuesday May 18, MedShare’s Western Region Distribution Center loaded and shipped out a 40 foot container of medical supplies and equipment destined for AFGHANISTAN.  This container was sponsored and shipped by American Medical Overseas Relief (AMOR), an NGO based out of Fresno, California that is dedicated to improving the health of people in impoverished areas of the  Middle East. 

AMOR knows that 40% of children in Afghanistan die before age 5. They die of preventable and treatable diseases like diarrhea, infections, measles, and chicken pox. Like children around the world, Afghan kids find joy in their families and friends as their lives begin. They don’t realize their life expectancy is half of what it would be if they’d been born in other countries with access to basic medical care.

The one-thousand-plus pieces of medical supplies and equipment on the MedShare container yesterday were hand selected by Dr. Mark Scoffield, CEO of AMOR.  This is MedShare’s second shipment to Afshar Hospital  with AMOR.  The first one shipped from California in June 2009.   The items on this container include patient gowns, suction pumps, crutches, hypoallergenic tape, adhesive dressings, surgical masks, gooseneck examination lights, otoscopes, blood pressure monitors, an ultrasound machine, and much more.  The items are going to be used at Afshar Hospital on the southwest side of Kabul. Afshar Hospital opened its doors in April, 2009. It was built by Afghans to serve the Afghan people. More than 100 Afghan employees deliver medical care to the more than 40,000 impoverished people in the area. The people that Afshar Hospital serves would not otherwise have access to medical care. In the first month, Afshar Hospital treated 800 patients and expects to be treating 3,000 patients each month in the future.

CURE International in Niger

“In a nation where the healthcare resources are overwhelmed with numerous tropical diseases, the child with the clubfoot, or poorly healed bone fracture or cleft lip would be marginalized and may never have the opportunities he or she may be afforded here in the States.  We hope to change that, all of us together,” Dr. Gary Roark, Medical Director, CURE International Pediatric Hospital of Niger.

CURE's Children Hospital in Naimey, Niger

Thursday April 15, MedShare’s Southeastern Regional Distribution Center loaded and shipped out a 40 foot container with medical humanitarian aid for CURE NIGER CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL.  This is MedShare’s long-time partner NGO CURE International’s newest hospital and is scheduled to open in the fall in the capital city of Niamey.  According to the current United Nations Development Programme Annual Report, Niger is the poorest country in the world.  A recent WHO study found that 55% of children aged 5 and under suffer from chronic malnutrition.  There is a desperate need for medical care in the country and MedShare is proud to be able to support CURE International’s new hospital by shipping this container of supplies.

The 1,200-plus boxes of medical supplies on the MedShare container were individually selected for CURE Niger Children’s Hospital by medical director Dr. Gary Roark, using MedShare’s online ordering system.  The supplies include IV sets, iodine, surgical face masks, sterilization packaging, urinary catheters, cast materials, crutches, canes, walkers, cervical collars, bedside commodes, and protective x-ray jackets.

“I am truly excited about having some of the basic supplies that we will NEED to start up the CURE International Pediatric Hospital in Niger.  We certainly could NOT and would NOT be able to serve the children with disabilities in this impoverished nation without MedShare’s assistance, the time and effort of the many hands and hearts, loading the container, and keeping everything SO WELL ORGANIZED!” said Dr. Roark.  Click here to view a video from Dr. Roark talking about CURE in Niger.