Columbia St. Mary's Behind Major Relief Effort for Afghan People

Friday, June 04, 2010

Three Cargo Shipments to be Loaded June 3

Truck_Web.jpgMilwaukee, WI, June 1, 2010 — Columbia St. Mary's Health System is donating medical equipment and materials to help save lives in war-torn Afghanistan. The equipment, which is obsolete or expired but still useful in Third World nations, fills three 40-foot shipping containers. The shipment is set to leave Milwaukee on June 3, and, after a long ocean transit and overland travel, will arrive in Afghanistan in mid-August.

The medical and surgical supplies will benefit five Afghan medical facilities including Kabul Medical University Hospital, Kandahar Hospital, Herat Medical School, Korean Hospital at Bagram, and El Salam Egyptian Hospital in Bagram. The 405th Army Civil Affairs Battalion in Bagram and 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment H&S Company in Marjah, Afghanistan also will receive some of the donated goods.

This is the second time in two years that Columbia St. Mary's is making such a donation to Afghanistan. Columbia St. Mary's is the only US hospital system to provide this type of aid to the Afghan medical community. "We are sending outdated equipment that would otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere if it was not donated," said Jennie Johns-Ford, manager of the Columbia St. Mary's Distribution Center. The equipment is still functional, but had been replaced or taken out of service. "For just one example, we are donating an X-ray viewing box because our sites primarily use digital imaging now," she said.

Among the urgently needed items being donated by Columbia St. Mary's are critical care beds, birthing beds, ventilators, infant incubators, physical therapy tables, portable surgical tables, X-ray light boxes, defibrillators, peAfghan Medical Supply Donationdiatric and neonatal medical and surgical supplies, and more. Columbia St. Mary's is the largest donor, but some other goods are being donated by DaVita (hemodialysis units), Medline (medical supplies needed by the US Military), Children’s Hope Network (humanitarian aid items), the Grafton Soccer Club (soccer equipment and balls) and Starbucks of Grafton (instant coffee for military in Afghanistan working on this project).

Last summer, Dr. Karim Seddiq, Advisor to Afghanistan's Ministry of Higher Education and Kabul Medical University, paid a personal visit to Wisconsin to thank Columbia St. Mary’s for the first shipment and to see some of the other of items that will go to equip Kabul University Hospital, which was destroyed and rebuilt last year. "Our own materials are very basic or scarce, and we are so very appreciative of the donations," he said.

The truckloads of equipment have been waiting at Columbia St. Mary's warehouse to be shipped for more than one year. Political and financial roadblocks prevented the shipment from leaving Milwaukee, a common and frustrating occurrence, according to Johns-Ford. "Shipping costs about $25,000 per truckload and we had promises of funding, but nothing materialized until now," she said.

Afghan Medical Supply DonationFunding was achieved by Becky Tenges, a Columbia St. Mary's volunteer who worked for more than a year to find a source. "In the span of just 18 days, the project exploded into a collaboration of many organizations, private individuals and the US Military. But the efforts of one individual, Major David W. Lewis of the 405th Army Civil Affairs Battalion, were responsible for finally finding a donor to fund the shipments. Somehow, Major Lewis found out about our shipments and he connected us with Spirit of America, a California-based charitable organization that helps Americans serving abroad to assist local people in need. They approved funding for one shipping container in just a few days," Tenges said.

"Spirit of America's commitment to donate the funds required to ship the first container of medical supplies is the catalyst that has brought forth donations by others including an Afghan-American organization, Afghans for Civil Society, Starbucks and several individuals. These donations are funding the shipment of the additional containers," Tenges said.

Like the first shipment, which arrived in Kabul in January 2009, this one has been organized by a grassroots group including Columbia St. Mary's, Children's Hope Network, a local non-profit organization run by Sandy Destrampe, a nurse case manager at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Ozaukee, and Shoreland Community Church in Brown Deer, WI. Afghans for Civil Society was also instrumental in funding the shipment and getting it to its proper destination.


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