Charleston hospitals donate surplus equipment to a country in need
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Surplus medical gear from Lowcountry hospitals will soon be shipped across the world to a hospital in Africa.
After years of planning, MUSC staff and volunteers spent Wednesday morning packing a 40-foot shipping container with medical equipment that will be sent to Mercy Hospital in the African nation of Sierra Leone.
The shipment is in partnership with the non-profit Helping Children Worldwide. The container will leave Charleston Port during Memorial Day weekend and reach Sierra Leone in a few months.
The container carries everything from gloves and masks, to heart monitors and sterilization equipment.
Years ago, MUSC Dr. Gary Gilkeson visited the Mercy Hospital in Sierra Leone and brought back stories of such great need, it inspired more visits. Since then, the hospital staff multiple time zones away have built a relationship with the Lowcountry medical expertise.
Dr. Gilkeson’s wife, Mary Ann, now volunteers with Helping Children Worldwide and spearheaded the shipment.
“It’s so hard to put into words you know, because the needs are so great and so deep,” Mary Ann explains.
Beth Gray, a retired nurse, and Misti Leyva, who works in endocrinology have each visited the country a few times.
“Beth and I have both been in the OR before - they don’t have lights and I’ve actually shown my cell phone, turned the light on, and shown it over the patient so that the surgeon could see what was happening,” Leyva says.
Roper St. Francis also donated ECG heart monitors to the project.
“There are baby bassinets that are going because right now the moms when babies are born at the hospital, they have to just stay in the bed with mom the whole time,” Mary Ann said.
The collaboration is also about sustainability. Claude Allende, Warehouse Coordinator & Asset Management at MUSC says they have a few large warehouses for storage.
He explains that some older equipment, like out of style waiting room chairs, and out of date bedside tables, may have sat in a large warehouse until they were sold or trashed.
“The important thing is in Sierra Leone - it has a future now. Luckily all those by the Biomed Department found those operational for Sierra Leone’s needs,” Allande says.
Staff and volunteers in the Lowcountry say the international connection is strong, and they look forward to visiting Mercy Hospital in Sierra Leone again later this year.
“While these things are being packed and texting with some of the folks in Sierra Leone and saying this is going on the truck right now - that’s just very exciting,” Leyva says.
Some of the other equipment in the shipment are an autoclave and water de-ionizer to sterilize tools. Gilkeson explains that right now, Mercy Hospital Staff boil water to clean equipment. A surgical cauterizer is also part of the package, because right now Gilkeson says staff relies solely on sutures after operations.
“We are in a you know, area of great wealth, and are a country of great wealth and things that we take for granted. all of the time, you know that they would fit, they will just be so thrilled to get this equipment to try to help these people,” Gilkeson says.
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