Kenya Trip Notes from the Field: Terry Blum

By Terry Blum, MedShare Board of Trustees

Monday, February 20, 2012

I am Terry Blum and I have the privilege to serve on MedShare’s board.  This is my second trip with MedShare, and it is a wonderful journey in terms of learning and sense-making.   Quite frankly, I am not sure I can construct meaning from all that I am sensing from my eyes, ears, mouth, fingers and nose.  I am also sensing from my heart, making this whole experience so difficult to justly describe.  As someone who is quite cerebral in everyday life, this adventure touches below my head into my heart and reaches into the region of feeling and intuition.  The incredibly rich tapestry of the lenses of the people with whom I am touring, all of whom awesome in their own way, is coupled with the wisdom of those we visit.  I know I will not be the same when I return as I was when I left Atlanta in that huge airplane.

Spotted in Kenya

After wonderful bonding and familiarizing ourselves with the agenda, we got into the reason for MedShare today by first visiting St. Mary’s Nairobi and then Partners for Care.   I will report on Partners for Care which is part of the mHealth alliance which engages in mobile health initiatives among other things.

The group transitioned from St. Mary’s to Partners for Care with lunch at the incredible Safari Park Hotel, where Sam (communications director) and Samuel (director in Kenya) from Partners for Care joined us.  The grounds of the Safari Park are quite elegant and could have been a movie scene from colonial times or an upscale suburb anywhere.   The food and the group’s camaraderie are awesome, but the contrast with the needs of so many is evident as one passes by the slums of Kibera (2nd largest in the world after Soweto with estimates of 1-2 million residents), near St. Mary’s, or the living in Mararui (estimates of 26-30,000 people).

En route to the clinic, we rode on a really bumpy road that went on for quite a while.  Somewhere in the middle of the road, we crossed a functional bridge, which may or may not be completed connecting segments of the bumpy road.  We passed banana trees, construction sites, snakes, local markets and lots of scenery.  We came to a stop outside a building that was the initial Partners for Care destination for most of us.  The signage said,  What if?  Life Changing Center.   “What if?”  is a question of what it would be like  if there were no AIDS in Kenya.

"What If" signage in Kenya

While most of us went into the clinic building, Lindsey Barber and Charlie Evans went into Mararui, lined with drainage system that empties into the river where the drinking and washing water come from, with Peter from Partners for Care.  Peter took them to visit a friend’s home as well as take some measurements to show how the mHealth android works.  The device relays vital signs information and pictures to Dr. Vincent at the clinic. It is a triage device with Dr. Vincent gives instructions for caring for the patient or asks for more information.  Each entry is a new record, but the patient’s information gets integrated into a record stored on the server.

Partners for Care Clinic

Partners for Care was founded by Atlanta nurse, Connie Scheren, who came to the MedShare store for supplies for her medical team mission trip.  It has 8 programs in addition to the clinic.  As we walk past the goat on the corner into the What if?  building through the door with Clinic written on it, we found a world of hope and love.  In the space that was opened 2 years ago, there is a one room clinic, class room for their Second Chance program that prepares 20 students for the national graduation exam with 2 years of education.  There is also a computer room, with no internet access, that serves 20 adult students at a time.  Forty-five or so have received or are receiving training and 20 have found jobs.

PET cart that was sent to Kenya on a MedShare container

Going into the clinic run by Dr. Vincent we saw a PET, personal energy transport vehicle which was sent in a MedShare container.  Other programs include sports programs for the kids, with volunteer coaches, including a policeman who was tired of just arresting them, a home for orphans run by Pastor John who also help widows, distribution of 500 treated malaria nets to households with kids under 5,  the wonderful music group Temple of Worship that draws crowds for AIDS awareness and prevention.  There is also an 8k race that is run at the same time as a 5K in Atlanta (the Kenyans finish the longer race quicker!).

A Kenyan Doctor

The Marcibit program is really striking.  Partners for Care serves one of the most impoverished sections of Kenya.  350 people with jiggers, a kind of parasitic flea that enters the skin and reproduces so the people, especially kids, can’t walk.  The inflammation is incredible and 350 have been treated with  antibacterial soap and water after which the site is covered with Vaseline.  89 have been provided with shoes that can help prevent it.

The health programs are important as 473 Kenyan children under 5 die every day, 71 due to HIV/AIDS, 93 to malaria….90% of these deaths are due to preventable causes!  So Partners for Care is there to help reduce child deaths.

Our visit was truly inspirational….we were sung to with a Jambo (welcome) song which included Hakuna Matada, reminding me of the Lion King and the Circle of Life!  They also sang a song “Smile”…happy for you… will lift you up, hold your hands, loose your pain, so you smile again. They ended our visit by singing “That Little Light of Mine” in English and Swahili….We left on our bus singing “That little heart of mine, let it shine,” knowing the love in the hearts of the Partners for Care.  The passion and inspiration of the Kenyans who spend so much energy to do their work to serve their own people is a memory I will always cherish.  They are rich in spirit, and thanks to them there is a little more light shining for many.

This post is part of a series we’re doing over the coming days while MedShare staff and Board of Trustee members travel through Kenya from February 17 – 27. We invite you to share the experience with them by reading their stories; to access them, click on the “Africa Trip“  icon in the right sidebar. Safe travels, team!

MedShare: September 2011 Container Shipment Announcements

This shipment represented a milestone achievement for MedShare as it was our 700th container of humanitarian relief shipped.  Hospitals throughout Libya are dealing with a humanitarian catastrophe as they are running short on critically needed medical supplies. The container was sponsored by HOPE International Relief & Development Agency (USA) based out of Columbus, Ohio. I-GO Aid Foundation, based in Malta, Libya, will coordinate delivery of the supplies and equipment to hospitals in Libya.  This marked the fourth shipment we’ve sent to hospitals in Libya collaborating with these partners.

Date: September 2, 2011

Country: Libya

Recipient: Libyan Red Crescent

Distribution Center: Western Region

Sponsors: Hope International Relief and Development Agency

Key Items: Hospital beds, gurneys, exam lights, exam tables, a ventilator for pediatric and adult patients, surgical packs, syringes, gloves and oxygen masks.

For more information, click here.

Date: September 13, 2011

Country: United States

Recipient: VIDA

Distribution Center: Western Region

Roper St. Francis Healthcare (RSFH),  a Charleston, South Carolina based healthcare system, partnered with us to send humanitarian aid to Plateau Mission Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. This effort is RSFH’s second to improve the Plateau Community, their first being the provision of a safe water system in 2009. For RSFH’s “Hands Across the Water” project, employees, physicians and volunteers came together to raise more than $27,000. The 1,000 boxes of medical supplies, supplemented with biomedical equipment and durable medical goods, will support Plateau Mission Hospital’s capable professionals and strong leadership by enabling them to provide better healthcare to the community it serves. For more information, click here.

Date: September 15, 2011

Country: Kenya

Recipient: Plateau Mission Hospital

Distribution Center: Southeast Region

Sponsors: Roper St. Francis Healthcare

Key Items: Nebulizer, incubator, gloves, infant warmer, prep kits, casts, OR light, beds, ventilator and an X-ray view box.

Date: September 21, 2011

Country: Ecuador

Recipient: Junta de Beneficencia de Guayaquil

Distribution Center: Western Region

Key Items: Pulse co-oximeter, stretcher, baby crib, exam table, PET vehicles, ambu bags, baby care kits, cervical collar, IV sets.

icddr,b, a leading international health research institution, has partnered with MedShare and another charity to support a large network of hospitals in Bangladesh by increasing quality of care and in-kind contributions of key medical supplies. The commitment, announced at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, will lead to the distribution of nearly $8 million worth of donated medicines and supplies and will establish best practice guidelines for patient care and treatment. The commitment will be operated and managed by icddr,b, which is providing medical professionals to oversee the training of over 7,600 employees at 12 hospitals as well as distributing the donated medical products.

Date: September 22, 2011

Country: Bangladesh

Recipient: i,cddrb

Distribution Center: Southeast Region

Sponsors: Project Development Services, Inc. generously sponsored this shipment in recognition of their 10th anniversary.

Key Items: Vital sign monitor, beds, OR light, oxi sensors, cold packs, crutches, masks, exam stools.

To read more about MedShare’s partnership with i,cddrb, click here

Date: September 28, 2011

Country: Ecuador

Recipient: Hospital Provincial General Docente Riobamba

Sponsors: Kimberly-Clark Foundation

Distribution Center: Western Region

Key Items: Nonconductive tubing, tracheostomy tubes, waste disposal units, masks, gowns, nasal oxygen cannula, exam chair, PET vehicles, nerve stimulators.

Date: September 28, 2011

Country: Paraguay

Recipient: Universidad Nacional de Asuncion Hospital de Clinicas

Distribution Center: Southeast Region

Sponsors: Kimberly-Clark Foundation

Key Items: Electrosurgical unit, dental chair, EKG monitor, blood glucose monitor, surgical blades, cast materials, orthopedic cement, drapes, gloves.

Date: September 30, 2011

Country: United States

Recipient: Gleaning for the World

Distribution Center: Southeast Region

Date: September 30, 2011

Country: Libya

Recipient: Ministry of Health Libya

Distribution Center: Southeast Region

Sponsors: Hope International Relief and Development Agency

Key Items: Forceps, gauze, gloves, surgical packs, walkers, oxygen concentrator, and ventilators.

Date: September 30, 2011

Country: Libya

Recipient: Ministry of Health Libya

Distribution Center: Western Region

Sponsors: Hope International Relief and Development Agency

Key Items: Digital thermometer, stretcher, gooseneck exam lights, laptops, blood collection tubes, forceps, nasal elevator, exam gloves, medical tape.

Date: October 3, 2011

Country: Kenya

Recipient: The 410 Bridge

Distribution Center: Southeast Region

Sponsors: The 410 Bridge

Key Items: Infusion pump, sphygmomanometer, exam light, baby care kits, canes, table covers, IV sets and 10 PET vehicles.

MedShare Ships Containers to World’s Soon-to-be Newest Nation

Earlier this year, officials in Southern Sudan announced the preliminary tally for the referendum on splitting Africa’s largest country in two. The results were an avalanche as nearly 99 percent voted to secede from the north. Thus, Southern Sudan will become the world’s newest nation in July. On May 19, 2011, MedShare supported the health of this nation by shipping two 40-foot ocean containers of medical humanitarian aid for Juba Teaching Hospital.

One of two Juba Teaching Hospital containers leaving MedShare

Sudan is a low-income country with a GDP per capita of US $700. Bolstered by higher oil production, good harvest and a continuing boom in construction and services, the economy has recently grown at a faster pace. However, this growth has been unevenly distributed and is geographically concentrated in central states around the capital city. There are huge urban-rural and regional disparities in health conditions as the Southern states are more deprived and underserved. There is also a high burden of infectious diseases in the country and epidemics of infectious diseases are common.

The nation of Sudan still faces challenges that jeopardize the chances of recovering the healthcare system. Among these are:

  • The excessive burden of communicable diseases, e.g. malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, vaccine-preventable diseases, and other neglected tropical diseases in the South and the emerging problems of non-communicable disease and of HIV/AIDS. Further areas of concern are high maternal and child mortality as well as widespread malnutrition.
  • The country is prone to natural disasters such as floods and droughts. While these disrupt infrastructure, including that of the healthcare system, they also cause illness and bring suffering through displacement, loss of shelter, food and income, thus posing a greater demand on the already weak and disrupted health system.
  • Since the main focus has so far been on humanitarian action, recovery and development of the health system has been largely overlooked with an overemphasis placed on clinical care.

The containers are carrying a combined total of over 17,800 lbs of donated medical supplies for the hospital, including 221 hospital mattresses, an oxygen concentrator, infant warmer, pulse oximeter, ventilator, nebulizers, syringes, Personal Energy Transportation vehicles, surgical masks, splints, gauze, band-aids, and much more.

Many people were critically important in making this shipment possible, both within and outside of MedShare. The UPS Foundation aided with the shipment of the containers, Esther Sprague and the faculty and students at the University of California Davis were vital in initiating this project, and the Juba Teaching Hospital staff was a pleasure to work with while ordering supplies. Hewlett-Packard also contributed $5,000 for these container shipments.

Most of all, though, we’d like to recognize our Western Region volunteers for taking on this project as a fundraising initiative. Before our volunteers got involved, a UC Davis group had been trying for over a year to raise money for the container. As of October 2010, they were lacking the $8,000 needed to cover the extra costs associated with the shipping to Southern Sudan. So, our volunteers stepped in. We challenged them to raise the remaining amount, and as is so typical of MedShare volunteers, this group went above and beyond. They collected almost $10,000 – enough to ship a second container of supplies!

Roughly the size of Texas, Southern Sudan consists of 10 states. Both the U. S. Government and private organizations have committed to helping Southern Sudan build a strong state, and MedShare is proud to be among these supporters. Healthcare is an important issue in this developing nation, and the two shipments of medical supplies and equipment will go a long way toward improving the quality of care available.

This is an excerpt from June’s e-newsletter. To read more – including a story of a medical mission team in Ethiopia and an 86 year-old volunteer – click here.

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