Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Repurpose. Save Lives.

Have you ever thought about what happens to the immense amount of obsolete medical equipment that is generated each year by hospitals and clinics here in the United States?

And have you ever wondered what those institutions, both large and small, do with all the items that they no longer need or want? Old beds, old baby warmers and incubators, crutches, dressings, IV fluids, tubing for various things, gloves, baby bunting, scrubs, patient gowns, walkers. The list is just endless.

And did you know that there are many, many hospitals and clinics all over the world who cannot afford to continue serving those in desperate need of medical care without our help. Yes, money is always helpful. But so is the physical donation of materials.

Like beds.

Like surgical equipment.

Like splints.

All of it is needed by someone somewhere.

And we here in this country are wasteful. But we don’t have to be. We don’t have to be because of organizations like MedWish. MedWish takes all that medical “stuff” that hospitals, clinics and even private citizens no longer need but which still has use. They recover it. They repurpose it. They redistribute it.  The boxes and boxes and boxes of mixed up medical equipment from every category know to man arrives on pallets, it is sorted by volunteers, it is reboxed and put on MedWish shelves. And then, when clinics and hospitals in such far flung places and Africa and Pakistan and Haiti have a need but don’t have the funds to fill that need, MedWish is there for them.  Since 1993 MedWish has shipped aid to 90 countries. That is amazing.

Truly amazing.

HHBL and I had the immense privilege of spending several hours on Saturday volunteering at MedWish with some of HHBL’s Leadership Cleveland classmates. And I took a couple of pictures. You cannot be surprised by that now can you. I didn’t take as many pictures as I might have because I wasn’t there to photograph, I was there to sort.MedWish 17

I might have sent out a tweet or two….but only because they told me to!!

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Josh Kravitz, MedWish Executive Director, gave us the full tour of the facility before putting us to work.MedWish 6MedWish 8

There are rooms and shelves full of medical equipment that is no longer used here but will be given a new life somewhere else.MedWish 9

These boxes are full of already sorted items. They are labeled and put on shelves so that when the item is called for it is right there on the appropriate shelf and instantly available.

There are always items that are expired. But expired doesn’t mean unusable. Those items that are expired and cannot be used overseas are still re-purposed in other ways. Nothing is wasted if at all possible.

After our tour and question time it was time to SORT! Now I have to remind you that the contents of the boxes that arrive at the warehouse are unsorted. It isn’t an unusual occurrence to grab a box, lug it over to your portion of the work table, open it and find that there are urinary catheters mixed in with boxes of nursing pads with perhaps a face mask or two thrown in.MedWish 18MedWish 3

Our job was to grab a box from the pallet. Take it to our station. Open it up and then sort it all out into the appropriate bin.

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And I am not talking little bins. I am talking BIG bins that are all nicely labeled.

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There was a fair amount of consultation going on as to what the thing being sorted was and where the heck was the appropriate bin for said item.MedWish 12

For some reason the guys weren’t all that keen on sorting through the large box of circumcision kits. I can’t think why that would be.

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And if you weren’t sure where an item should go, and even I was stumped by some of the things I pulled out of boxes, there are loads of knowledgeable MedWish gurus available to give you guidance. THANK GOODNESS!!

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The warehouse was a blur of activity as people toted boxes and opened boxes and sorted boxes. There was also a group of students from Kent State there and so there were lots of hands and bodies all whipping around and sorting and scratching heads and asking questions.

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And there might have been a bit of laughter and hijinks thrown in as well. Eric was stylin’ with multiple colors of gloves.

The MedWish site has a wealth of information about who they are, what they do and why they do it, lists of donations they except and a whole host of important information. If you are not in the Cleveland area (but you know you wish you were) Josh Kravitz assures me that there are other organizations around the country that do what they do.

Find one. Donate.

Or better yet, volunteer. You will not be sorry.


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