Hurricane Felix and the little mission that grew

Lois Delaforce hands over seven PTPs to the doctors and nurses at the Moravian clinic in Nicaragua

It began as a small-scale building project. It mushroomed into a multi-faceted mission trip that brought relief and healing to hundreds of people affected by Hurricane Felix.

Members of Burton Avenue United Church in Barrie, Ontario, were committed to raising funds for construction materials for a youth centre in Nicaragua, but they surpassed their goal. They then collected money for micro-enterprise loans for disadvantaged women, and again they received more than they required. The next project would be a Physician Travel Pack for a clinic in Managua. As the money kept coming in, one PTP became seven, and the team had added another purpose to their 12-day trip.

Hurricane Felix struck the north-east corner of Nicaragua on September 4, 2007. When the team arrived in October, the devastation was evident all along the coast. Entire villages were wiped off the map. Thousands of hectares of forests were flattened. The animals were gone. People’s livelihoods were gone. Thousands of homes, schools and churches were damaged.

Many countries sent help, but with little infrastructure there to begin with, and most of that obliterated, it was next to impossible to get the aid to the people.

Rains and floods followed the hurricane, adding water-borne diseases, including leptospirosis, to the plight of the people. Medicine from the PTPs would be used by the staff of the clinic, travelling along the coast, to treat these infections and other conditions that threatened to claim thousands of lives even after the initial crisis was past.

The mission of a group of 15 Canadian volunteers grew to include hundreds of people who donated money to fund their projects, the doctors and nurses at the clinic who give of their time to serve the poor, and all of the partners of HPIC who offer what they can to bring hope and healing to people who really need it.

Practicing pharmacy in Haiti

It is 8:00 am and a crowd is waiting outside the gate of the Bethesda Medical Center in Haiti. Today, two resident doctors and a small nursing staff will see about 180 patients…

… order lab tests, take x-rays, do minor surgeries and prescribe medicines.

Tomorrow they will see a similar number, and the next day and the next day.

According to Ron Elliott, Canadian pharmacist and regular carrier of HPIC’s Physician Travel Pack to Haiti, practicing pharmacy was never like this in Canada.

“Depending on donated medicine, the little pharmacy assembles prescriptions into small plastic bags with hand-printed simple instructions. Without contributions of medicines, treatment would be difficult if not impossible.”

Haiti is considered to the poorest country in the western hemisphere. In the community where Bethesda is situated, there is no running water, no sewage system, no garbage removal, intermittent supply of electricity, limited education opportunities and grinding poverty. Even if medicine were readily available, the people could not afford it.

The clinic, with such a high volume of patients, is always in need of painkillers, antibiotics, deworming medicine, anti-hypertensives and children’s vitamin supplements. Prenatal vitamins are essential for moms-to-be and given the poverty and poor nutrition, critical to healthy pregnancy outcomes.

“Planning now for my sixth trip to Haiti, I am excited by the increasing role that Health Partners International of Canada is taking with developing countries,” he continues. “I am even more thrilled by the decision of so many companies to support HPIC in its quest to assist medical missions around the world.”

Sudanese refugee children receive vitamins

South Sudanese children, refugees from the conflict between north and south, have fled to Egypt with their families and are living in poverty.

Lack of food, medicine, adequate clothing and shelter has compromised the health of many. The Ma’adi Community Church operates several small schools for these children, offering them a warm welcome, a hot meal and an education.

Canadian Shirley Trotter obtained Flintstone Vitamins from HPIC and carried them to one of these schools – a simple way to ensure a chance at better health for dozens of children in need.

HPIC received the following letter from a woman who works at the Ma’adi Community Church school.

Dear friends:

Thank you so much for the children’s Multiple Vitamins which you donated for the poor Sudanese refugee children living in Cairo.

I have been involved with the Ma’adi Community Church schools for 18 months and have watched these children and their families struggle to survive as refugees in a country that really doesn’t want them at all. The parents are very loving and caring and education is a priority for them. Their energy goes into feeding and housing the children and then making sure they get to one of these little schools which are really just dirty apartments on the ground floor.

A donor has offered to provide one hot meal a day and that is often the only meal for the children and it is also an incentive for them to come to school.

These vitamins are essential to their health. The children often have colds, infections, are very thin, have skin disorders, etc. Fruit and vegetables are a rarity in the over-packed apartments they live in. Vitamins are unattainable for any of these families and if they could pay for them, the quality is very poor. So your gift is gigantic to many families!

We are touched by your compassion and your generosity. Thank you, thank you. Blessings in abundance!

Yours truly,

Mary Jean Crouch
Chair, Refugee Education Committee
Ma’adi Community Church
Ma’adi, Cairo, Egypt

Surgery for the poor in Guatemala

A toddler’s life is saved

When Dr. Maureen McTavish, an anesthesiologist from Salmon Arm BC, travelled to Guatemala early in 2008, she carried with her medicine procured through HPIC.

McTavish was part of a group composed of two surgical teams and one medical team, totaling 55 volunteers, organized by “Medicos en Accion.”

One surgical team performed 140 operations at the Hermano Pedro hospital complex in Antigua. The second surgical team went to Patzun, a more remote village in the western highlands and worked in a hospital run by an order of Franciscan nuns. They performed some 60 general and gynecological surgeries.

The medical team visited several villages and worked with local nurses and village councils to provide basic medical care and education regarding nutrition and sanitation, and to arrange surgical care and referrals when needed.

According to McTavish, “Every patient is special and deserving of the care they receive. They are extremely grateful, stoic and uncomplaining.” Wendy and Gilberto are two examples.

A toddler’s life is saved
“Wendy is a 21-month-old girl from a poor family who had a large inguinal hernia. If this strangulated, it could have been life-threatening. The nearest hospital is an hour away and the family would have had to pay to take her there and get treatment. We repaired her hernia under general anesthesia and gave her antibiotics, analgesics and anti-inflammatory medication for pain. The surgeon used local anesthetic to reduce pain – all of which was supplied by HPIC.”

Dignity restored to Gilberto
“Gilberto is a 24-year-old male who’d had a gradually increasing mass in his left facial area for the past10 years. This was painful and affected swallowing, but just as important, the disfigurement was a source of shame leading to isolation and depression. This mass was benign and would have been treated when it was the size of a quarter in Canada. Doctors used Propofol, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, analgesics and local anesthetic, supplied by HPIC, to treat him.”

McTavish recognizes the importance of the donated medicines to the success of the team’s mission. “We are extremely grateful to the pharmaceutical companies for their contributions,” she says. “We are able to do way more because of the donations and the collaboration of HPIC.

“On behalf of the team and our patients, THANK YOU so very much.”

Healing and friendship in the Dominican Republic

Shirley Trudeau offers a pink baseball cap to a homeless woman

Shirley Trudeau has been on nine medical missions since she retired as a registered nurse. On her most recent trip to the Dominican Republic, she bought a hat for one of her patients.

Shirley travelled with a medical/surgical/dental team from Medical Ministry International that spent two weeks operating clinics in small towns in the area of Monte Plata.

She recalls one very special woman, their unusual connection, and the treatment she offered using products from the Physician Travel Pack:

“There was a homeless lady, somewhere between 50 and 70 years old, who lived in front of our gate. We affectionately called her the mad hatter because she wore several hats, one of which looked like a top hat. At night she slept in cardboard cartons. During the day, she carried all of her belongings about with her in bags. Her hands were scarred and the tips of several fingers were missing. Her hygiene was deplorable: her clothing and her body were unwashed and the odour was offensive.

“My Spanish is limited so communication was difficult. She seemed to be suffering from mental illness, and she muttered most of the time. Her most obvious health issue was a large varicose ulcer on her leg which was not being cared for.

“After several days of bringing her soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, clothing and food, she trusted me enough to allow me to cleanse and dress her ulcer. She also needed antifungal cream for a rash that she scratched continually.

“When it was time to leave, I gave her a pink baseball cap. She wore it over her many other hats.”

Graduating into life

Many of the children who graduate from a nutritional program in Haiti have also been treated with medicine from HPIC

Many of the children who graduate from a nutritional program in Haiti have also been treated with medicine from HPIC[/caption]At the nutrition centre of the Northwest Haiti Mission, a graduation ceremony is held for four year olds. These are the children who were brought to the mission in third stage malnutrition, and would have died without care.

The children generally live at home and are brought to the centre every day by their mothers or older siblings. In the special nutrition program, they are given three meals a day, vitamins and medical attention. Canadian Tina Simpson-Leslie regularly carries medicine from HPIC to be administered by the doctor at the mission’s clinic.

When the children at the centre are restored to health and strength, they get dressed up, have their pictures taken, and participate in a ceremony that celebrates survival and serves to launch them into life. They each receive a gift and a diploma, and have a party.

Leslie recognizes the essential role of the medicine and nutritional supplements from HPIC. “Because of your work, many were healed of diseases that would have cost them their lives,” she says.

“This is a generation of people who would not have lived, who will grow up to change their land.”

A medical mission in Haiti changes lives

When Elaine Willis, a registered practical nurse, travelled to Haiti with a team from New Life Assembly Church in Petrolia, she saw poverty and suffering firsthand.

“Most people are too poor to go to a clinic or a pharmacy,” she reports. “They may beg for help and even buy expired drugs. Often people who are sick go without & or wait for a free clinic like ours.”

With the medicines and supplies contained in the PTP they carried with them, the five volunteers offered free medical care to orphanages, street people, and underprivileged communities, treating 515 people in four days.

Conditions treated included malaria, skin rashes, wounds, intestinal ailments and infections of all kinds. One 80-year-old woman (life expectancy is normally around 50 in Haiti) was treated for advanced arthritis. A little girl who had lost her mother came to the clinic with her aunt. She was a case of “failure to thrive,” obviously lacking in both food and affection. Another child was treated for an infected wound on her leg. Expectant mothers received prenatal care.

According to Willis, the Haitian patients are not the only ones who benefited from the mission. She says, “It was another amazing and life-changing trip for all of us.”

Rescued from a plane on fire in Goma

On April 15, a passenger jet attempting to take off crashed into a crowded marketplace in Goma, DRC, killing dozens. Mapenzi, who had recently lost her husband to malaria, was on that plane with her three daughters. She was going to her brother’s house – to a new town, a new job, a new life.

She tells her story: “When I realized our plane had crashed, my first thought was, How am I going to save my children?

“I pushed Lola, my 8 year old, in front of me, but she clung to my skirts and yelled, ‘Mummy, we’re burning!’ Right after that a huge man came up behind me, passed out and fell on top of me. I said to myself, That’s it. We’re finished. We are going to die here as there is no way to get out now.

“I put my baby, Stella, down for a minute, but when I looked back at her I saw flames where she was sitting. Then I took my two hands and pushed that big, fat man off of me. I picked up Stella and put Lola in front of me again. Right away I saw a light. I pushed towards the window. People outside the plane saw me steering Lola and said, ‘Give her to us!’ They pulled her out of the plane, and then I tossed the baby out to them. Next I picked up Horeli who is 5 and the rescuers pulled us out together.

“After that I can’t remember what happened for awhile. I think I blacked out. Someone recognized us and brought us to HEAL Africa Hospital. When I came to, I looked around me and couldn’t see the girls. I went crazy, yelling and throwing things around. I picked up my intravenous bottle and tubing and ran outside screaming, ‘Where are my kids?!’

“I have deep burns on my back, so I’m still having dressing changes and treatment with antibiotics. Since we’ve been here at the hospital, the doctors and nurses have taken good care of us. That has been about the only bright spot, that and the kindness of our friends from church.

“I had sold our house and all we had in Goma to have some money to start our new life. All we owned was in our suitcases on board. I lost everything in the crash, including the cash I was carrying with me. It was all burned. But my girls and I were saved.”

HPIC provides wound dressings and other medical supplies to HEAL Africa Hospital for the treatment of people like Mapenzi and her children.

HPIC has now provided $400 million in donated medicine to the developing world

MONTREAL (Oct. 11, 2012) – Today Health Partners International of Canada joined with local donor pharmaceutical companies and other partners at IMS Brogan to celebrate passing the milestone of having provided $400 million in donated medicines and hospital supplies to the developing world.

“We believe that $400 million in donated medicine would equate to 18 million treatments,” said Glen Shepherd, President of HPIC. “We are incredibly grateful for the trust of Canada’s healthcare industry. HPIC is able to accomplish incredible things by bringing together dozens of companies for the common cause of increasing access to medicine and improving health in the developing world.”

Melodie Hicks, a nursing professor at Vanier College who brings students to Malawi for an international health development project every year, spoke with passion about the difference donated medicines make in the lives of people in need.

“In Malawi about 17 per cent of people are living with HIV/AIDS,” Hicks said during her talk. “We became aware of a clinic that was handing out antiretrovirals but had nothing for infections and many patients had pneumonia and were being sent home with nothing. The students were so happy to be able to say ‘don’t turn them away we have antibiotics in the HPIC Physician Travel Pack.’ ”

Hicks was authentic, passionate and profuse in her thanks to the Canadian pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. “You are not just making a difference to people in need overseas through the Physician Travel Pack. You are also giving a life-changing experience to young Quebec nurses who will provide quality care and not take anything for granted.”

Since 1990, HPIC has received $400 million in donations of prescription and over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, vaccines, and hospital supplies from more than 100 companies in Canada. For a list of 2011 donors, go to:

Training caregivers to save more mothers and babies in Zimbabwe

zimbabwe-caregiversForty healthcare workers have fanned out across Zimbabwe equipped with best practices in the provision of emergency obstetrical care.

“Moved by the dire statistics on maternal and infant mortality in Zimbabwe, HPIC brought together a whole network of partners to make this first training in Zimbabwe happen,” said Glen Shepherd, President of HPIC.

HPIC sponsored the ALARM International Program, a course in Emergency Obstetrical and Neonatal Care (EmONC) developed by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. It was given Sept. 17-22 in Harare in partnership with the Zimbabwean Association of Church-related Hospitals and the Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ). Major donors included The Salvation Army, the CHARIS Foundation, Initiative 360 and Johnson and Johnson.
Providing the ALARM course is a component of HPIC’s Focus on Mother and Child Health. Kendall Nicholson, HPIC’s Executive Director of Programs, was in Harare for the first training. “The group was young and composed of doctors and midwives. They appreciated the very hands-on practical format of the course,” she said, adding that “for many the emphasis on a mother’s rights in making decisions about her care was new. If a woman has a good experience at the hospital, she is more likely to come back the next time she is pregnant. The rights approach has a direct impact on improving maternal and neonatal mortality rates.”

Learning how to deliver a baby with shoulder dystocia is a life-saving component of the ALARM course. Shoulder dystocia is one of the most anxiety-provoking emergencies encountered in maternity care. It occurs when a baby’s shoulder does not enter the mother’s pelvis as it should. “Shoulder dystocia is often fatal because of a lack of skills,” said one of the participants.

Knowing how to manage postpartum bleeding is also critical. “Postpartum bleeding is an even greater threat because where (our hospital is) we don’t have access to blood transfusions,” she said. ”
Another participant noted that medical schools mainly teach theory and he really appreciated the practical teaching. The teaching aids used in the ALARM International course have been left with the Zimbabwean Association of Church-related Hospitals. They now have four obstetrical mannequins with rubber babies and four infant resuscitation mannequins for future trainings.

HPIC is committed to providing two more ALARM International trainings in Zimbabwe in 2013. “One of the great things about the ALARM International training, which is so well developed by the SOGC, is that it has a train-the-trainer component. Some of the participants are now qualified trainers, which means the impact of the course will continue for years to come,” Shepherd said. “Ultimately, more babies and mothers will live because of this course.”