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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • Aid for The Injured: Shipment Bound for Ukraine

    by Tyler Graf | May 31, 2016

    A few months ago, we told you about a little Ukrainian boy named Klym.

    A preschool-aged child living in war-torn Kramatorsk, Klym was caught in an explosion near his school a year ago. He lost his mother that day when she leaped on top of her boy to shield him from the blast. Neighbors found the boy still clinging to his mother. He was badly injured but alive.

    Doctors were able to treat Klym’s trauma at a local hospital, in large part due to a shipment of medical supplies from Medical Teams International.

    Klym, Ukrainian boy, from Facebook, 2015
    Young Klym was saved during a bomb explosion in the Ukraine when his mother jumped on top of him. Though badly injured, he was successfully treated at local hospitals as a result of your donations.

    The supplies were a lifesaver for Klym. He was not alone. They helped others like him, people stuck in the crossfire of the ongoing strife in Eastern Ukraine. Because of the conflict, people are being injured, losing limbs and dying. This surgical equipment ensures that hospitals can treat people suffering from the most serious injuries.

    Nearly 10,000 people have been killed and another 20,000 wounded since the Ukraine conflict began two years ago, according to The New York Times.

    Hospitals in this war-torn region will soon be receiving another shipment of supplies, which will go toward helping people just like Klym. In partnership with U.S.-based, Ukrainian-American nonprofits and your generous support, a fresh shipment of medical supplies and surgical equipment is on its way to Kiev, the Ukraine capital, before it makes its way to locations farther east.

    Ukraine, shipment 1, may 2016
    A volunteer pulls a pallet of medical supplies bound for the Ukraine. Once the entire shipment arrives, it will be dispersed among roughly 80 hospitals.

    Katya Sedova, Head of Humanitarian Affairs for the Ukrainian Association of Washington State, said the supplies will be dispersed among 80 hospitals and health facilities located in the hardest-hit regions.

    “These supplies are vital,” she said. “Some of these are not available.”

    She added: “We have people wounded, killed almost every day. They need these supplies right now.”

    Amputations in particular are now sadly all too common in the Ukraine. There are shortages of high-quality sutures that can stop bleeding and stem trauma. The shipment contains all manner of medical supplies, from the high-quality sutures to bandages and surgical masks.

    Your support in sending these valuable supplies is saving lives. And because of your support, and the help of partners, Medical Teams was able to send this most recent shipment, valued at $962,409.

  • Cambodia: An Expectant Mother's Story

    by User Not Found | May 27, 2016

    At first, Oun wasn't even sure she was pregnant. Oun and her husband, Ren, work extremely hard as garment workers and truck drivers in Cambodia, yet their resources are few. Oun’s questions were many, like any expectant mother, and for a time she was only able to glean information from a few other villagers. In fact, Oun had been unsure that she was carrying a baby until she went to a local clinic and the midwife confirmed she was indeed pregnant.

    Without proper care, Oun and her child could be at serious risk.

    Health workers knew that Oun and her baby were at risk without better information and care. Oun attended a workshop and was soon receiving valuable support from the health workers. They began an education campaign for her, emphasizing the importance of regular check-ups and following their advice- without proper care, she and her child could be at serious risk. They gave her pre-natal advice and reminded her to visit the clinic regularly.

    Oun took this advice to heart. She came to the clinic regularly, and received pre-natal check-ups along with continued support and information. Finally, the time came for Oun to give birth. Thanks to the health workers’ support, Oun knew how important it was to give birth at a local hospital, rather than alone at home. Thanks to the health workers' support - and Oun's hard work - she and her little one are both in good health.


    Your support continues to help Chanloid Dai Village in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia. There are many other women like Oun - thanks to you, Medical Teams International’s dedicated teams can continue to support families to help ensure safe and healthy lives. Your support is serving as the hands and feet of God around the world. On behalf of Oun and her baby, thank you.

  • A Gift of Knowledge

    by Sarah Austria | May 24, 2016

    As a compassionate community leader in a small village in Myanmar, Rebecca was often asked by fellow villagers for help with illnesses and injuries. She did her best to care for her community, but there was one major challenge - Rebecca had no medical training.

    Understandably, her advice was often inaccurate. Many people in Rebecca’s community didn’t realize they should see a doctor when sick-- and leaders like Rebecca didn’t know warning signs for serious conditions. Myanmar is the poorest country in Asia, and medical care in rural areas of the country is often difficult to access. Community leaders like Rebecca fill an important role in caring for their communities. But without specific health education for these leaders, communities are vulnerable.


    Thanks to you, the village of Japat now has a priceless gift: knowledge. Medical Teams International conducted health-education training in Rebecca’s village. Through the training sessions Rebecca gained the knowledge she needed to give more accurate health advice and to keep her community healthy.

    Her newfound knowledge was quickly put to the test. A villager in Rebecca’s community cut his leg on his way to work. The wound was deep and serious - he was quickly losing blood. His blood pressure dropped and he became tired. He hobbled to Rebecca for advice. Thanks to her new knowledge, Rebecca knew that pressure was critical to slow the bleeding-- and that he needed to see a doctor or risk death. Before her training, she may not have realized that the man’s life was in danger.

    They had to cross nearly a dozen streams to reach the nearest hospital - all while the man continued to bleed.

    By the time they arrived, he was barely conscious.

    Thankfully, doctors were able to successfully suture the man’s leg to stop the bleeding. They told Rebecca that had she not brought him to the hospital, he probably would have died.

    Prior to her training, Rebecca’s good intentions likely wouldn’t have been good enough. She may not have realized the importance of getting the man to the hospital, simply due to her inadequate training. In this case, a lack of knowledge could have led to the man’s death.

    Rebecca was happy that her patient would heal. She is proud of herself - her training saved a life. Thanks to you, Rebecca now has the power to keep her community healthy and strong.

  • Sophea’s Story: Survival, hardship and hope.

    by Emily Crowe | May 20, 2016

    This is the first story in a series collected by Healthy Women, Healthy World to share the stories of the women who inspire their initiative. Meet Sophea, one of the women of Medical Teams International who is working hard in Cambodia to ensure better healthcare for women around the world.

    Upon meeting Sophea, I was immediately drawn to her and her story. It is one of many stories of survival from the Khmer Rouge regimen but Sophea’s story is one of hardship, survival, perseverance and hope. –Kristi

    Sophea, now an amazing member of the Medical Teams International team in Cambodia, meets with an expectant local mom. 

    Sophea was born in 1965. Sophea was one of nine siblings—four died before their fifth birthday. Sophea is from a village in Battambang province, Cambodia. She grew up during the bloody Pol Pot regime—a time of brutal violence, state-led genocide, and heart-wrenching loss.

    When she was just 10, she and her brothers were forced to leave home. Here, they survived on watery porridge, slept in hammocks and spent hours doing hard labor in the nearby fields. Sophea constantly worried about her family and couldn’t sleep. Stationed just a few miles from home – but forbidden to visit her family – sometimes she would sneak out at night to see them. This is how she learned what was happening to the rest of her family: her father had been murdered by Pol Pot’s soldiers. Her uncles, afraid they were next, fled. Her grandmother starved to death. Not even a teenager, Sophea witnessed so much loss.

    When Vietnam began attacking Khmer Rouge soldiers, bombings threatened everyone. Her family fled to a nearby village. For two months, they survived by eating the grains of rice left in the rice fields after harvest. They were so desperate for food. Rice became the currency of trade.

    Soon, her family fled to refugee camps on the border in search of safety. They arrived at the camps safely, but were not there long before they were robbed. Without money for rice, they would soon starve. They returned to their village, but soon discovered their house had been taken by another family. Living with relatives, things finally began to get better. Sophea returned to school and her brothers opened a tailoring business.

    But, then—finally recovering after so much loss and heartache—her brothers were drafted to fight. Afraid to lose even more, her family returned to the refugee camps—fleeing twice to avoid attacks by Pol Pot’s soldiers.

    Despite food rations and occasional bombings, life finally began improving for Sophea—now in her twenties. Working hard, Sophea passed the midwifery exam and began work as a midwife. She married and began a family, and both she and her husband worked hard helping their fellow Cambodians heal after the many scars left by war.

    Sophea has spent over three decades working with nonprofits—providing care to women affected by AIDS, working with local communities, improving quality of care at clinics and helping more women have access to reproductive healthcare. It was difficult work: She had to live away from her family to reach the communities that needed the most care. Landmines left from the war made this job very dangerous. To earn her Public Health degree, she traveled over four hours every weekend to attend classes. Her dedication to the health of her people and her drive to learn kept her passionate to keep working hard.

    Sophea joined Medical Teams International in January 2013. She lives in Phnom Penh with her husband and three children. She brings her passion and experience to two core programs: Healthy Children & Safe Motherhood & Medical Services & Training. After years of service in the villages, Sophea has earned the respect of those working alongside her in the field—and is making a big difference in our work in Cambodia. We are so blessed to have her on the team!

  • Uganda: Dreams of a Baby

    by Sarah Austria | May 17, 2016

    Veciana and her husband, Simeon, were excited to have children. Twice, the excitement of pregnancy was followed by the devastation of a miscarriage at three months. But she remained hopeful as she sought help at her local health clinic in Burundi--Maybe, with treatment, she could have a safe birth. Unfortunately, when she inquired about treatment she was told that she was fine - and that there were no solutions for her. After the second miscarriage, Veciana was afraid she would may never be able to have a baby.


    Then, Veciana and Simeon’s life was thrown into turmoil. Violence broke out in Burundi and their community was attacked. The couple fled, taking with them a neighbor girl who became orphaned after her entire family was killed in the attack.

    After safely arriving as refugees in Uganda, Veciana began to notice pain in her pelvis. She was worried. A local health worker trained by Medical Teams International encouraged her to get tested for cervical cancer. Thankfully, there was no cancer.

    While at the Medical Teams International health clinic, Veciana mentioned her previous miscarriages. There, staff made a discovery: a simple, treatable issue with her cervix was likely causing her miscarriages. Veciana also learned something else at the clinic- she was pregnant.

    Thanks to you, Medical Teams International was able to perform a simple surgery that repaired her cervix, and made it safer for her to carry a child.

    Finally, she found the treatment she'd been seeking

    When we last talked to her, she was six months pregnant! So far, it seems the surgery was a success. At first, Veciana was nervous that she would miscarry again... especially at three months. However, with each passing month she was a bit more hopeful and became more and more excited.

    Veciana and Simeon are an incredibly affectionate and sweet couple - a sentiment made even clearer by the fact that they have taken in and continue to care for the orphaned girl from their community in Burundi. They are so very excited to have a baby. Without your support, Veciana would not have discovered the source of her early pregnancy problems, or been able to repair the problem. You have made their happiness, and this healthy pregnancy, a reality.