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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Durham's Engineering World Health in Haiti to help hospitals

Posted by on Sun, Mar 14, 2010 at 11:34 AM

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This post is part of a week-long series from Engineering World Health, a nonprofit headquartered in Durham. A team of three biomedical engineers and technicians from EWH will be in Haiti from March 14 to 21 to assess and repair medical equipment at five clinics in the Port-au-Prince area. These posts will be written by two of the EWH team members, Lora Perry and Justin Cooper, and will include daily news, photos, and insights from Haiti regarding the state of health care two months after the earthquake. For a brief overview of this project, please see our release on the EWH website. The Indy staff is our neighbor at our downtown Durham office, and I would be remiss if I did not thank them for graciously sharing both this space for us to blog. Thanks for following our story this week!

-Justin

Our first post is written by Lora on Saturday, March 13 in preparation for the trip:

Tickets were purchased yesterday for a departure the day after tomorrow. And no, it's not for a funeral...

I'm going back to Haiti for a week as part of a team of Biomedical Engineers/Technicians to assess the equipment situation at 4+ hospitals and do as many fixes as we can sight-unseen. Well, sight-mostly-unseen except for some photos. It's incredibly exciting, intimidating, thrilling, and overwhelming. My approach at this point is to be as prepared as possible without sacrificing rest beforehand, do the most thorough job possible while we're there, and write a kick-butt report when we return. Hopefully it will be an impactful project, and not just some disaster-tourists out for a joyride.

In the past I've tried not to drop names of organizations in my blog, but I was told to on this trip... and it makes sense. The more publicity and awareness there is of our cause and related ones, the more we'll be able to affect change. So here it goes:

I'm traveling with Engineering World Health (EWH), based out of Durham, North Carolina. This is the same organization I traveled with in Tanzania. But no, this is not a two-month stint involving swahili lessons. And since an English-Haitian Kreyol dictionary is not possible to find last minute (as I learned this afternoon), I'll be relying on my French and incredible non-verbal communication skills. Fortunately or unfortunately, my stomach usually lets people know when I'm hungry. I'm hoping that will work in the positive next week.

EWH is not initiating this project all alone. AmeriCares has asked us to partner in this (potentially) multi-phase project to improve the state of medical equipment in and around Port-au-Prince. They may be addressing other needs too, but I don't know about them. Do your own research.

Since this trip has been pieced together so last minute, you'll learn more details as we go. I'm really enjoying the challenge of getting to think through the whole process to make our work effective. This is in contrast to being a student with a set packing list, scheduled itinerary, and pre-established connections. Next week in Port-au-Prince all the preparation will have been things that our team has thought of, designed, and intentioned. It's exciting to use the knowledge I've been learning over the past year while compiling guidelines of how to donate medical equipment effectively. Now it's time for the practical exam.

To give you an idea of the preparations -

• Spent this morning distributing travel insurance cards I bought yesterday

• We compiled and refined a list of pertinent questions to ask the hospitals. For instance, we can get their wish list, which might include an ultrasound. But we've got to ask if they have a doctor trained to use it AND if there's even electricity to make the ultrasound turn on.

• Found a connection with a Clinical Engineer from the University of Arkansas who has been given donations by Siemens, Drager, and others... talked about how we could help him identify appropriate recipients.

• Looked for the non-existent English-Haitian Kreyol phrasebook (and the even more impossible medical phrase book)

• Bought silicone sealant to fix a leaky autoclave. Picked up WD-40 and superglue as impulse buys. I'm guessing they'll be useful.

But what am I talking about? I've got all day tomorrow and even Sunday morning to prepare! Ha... oh dear. Keep praying!

Photo: From my first visit to Haiti. This is the sign we put on a half-fixed autoclave. The next day I found it on my bag. "Dange: Pa touche wap mouri." "Danger, don't touch. You'll die."

Oh, and before I forget, the views expressed in this blog are solely the personal views of the author. Unless of course I'm quoting or misquoting someone else.

For more info about EWH, please visit www.ewh.org or email info@ewh.org

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