Medical Teams International | Official Blog

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  • Cambia and Medical Teams International: Updates from the field

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 21, 2016

    This post is from Cambia Health Solution's blog, The Pulse. We're proud that Cambia has been our partner for years, providing invaluable support for our dental program and working over the past year to develop a better system for our Uganda clinics that will provide better healthcare for the massive influx of refugees entering the country-- potentially impacting many lives.

    Check out these notes from Cathi Row, one of their employees who volunteered on the ground, working with our teams to refine and implement the project:

    Day 4

    Today we were able to start using tablets to input patient data in one of the clinics. The clinicians were excited by the new technology and caught on very quickly. I had the opportunity to watch the clinicians work with patients in the outpatient department, which was a remarkable experience.

    In the clinics there is very little privacy, and there is a high volume of patients. In a period of three hours, two clinicians met with nearly 80 patients. Patients can be either national, meaning Ugandans, or refugees, and healthcare is provided at no cost to the patient. It’s not uncommon to see a mother seeking care for not only herself, but for that of her small child or infant.


    Day 6

    Today we traveled to a clinic to learn how the data clerk compiles the data to prepare the monthly report for UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

    Watching the process, it took me back to a time years ago when I felt more comfortable with paper processes than electronic processes. The data clerk uses paper tallies from a variety of departments to create a very complex excel spreadsheet.

    As we move from department to department to gather data, I am given a clear message of why I am here. In maternity, we hear the cry of newborn literally coming from the room next door. A few minutes later I’m introduced to the mother and her beautiful baby.


    Day 8

    Today we traveled to one of the clinics to monitor and support clinicians as they used tablets for the first full day of data collection using tablets. After two days of training and testing, the clinicians love using the technology. While we found a few minor issues, things are working well.

    Over the next few months we will be validating the accuracy of the data. I also worked with a data clerk on completing a weekly report. Again, much like on Saturday, we went to multiple departments to gather and hand tally data to produce a weekly report. Good news! Next week some of this process will be easier for the data clerk to gather because of the work we have done here.

    Day 9

    Today was spent attending meetings in the settlement. In Uganda, one of the major accomplishments of the work day includes getting everyone to where they need to go. The process seems much like musical chairs at times. Nine or 10 people traveling to multiple locations in two cars.

    One thing you can expect is for plans to change. Today one change included a demonstration that closed a road we needed to travel. Another included an impromptu meeting which lasted longer than expected.

    You also can expect to have an opportunity to ride with different people. An important thing to remember – if you know where you are going, you’ll get there, just maybe not in the way you had originally expected.


  • Samaher: Mother, Diabetic, Refugee

    by Emily Sitler | Nov 18, 2016

    There are 57,000 “persons of concern” in Greece - many are refugees fleeing conflict. Here is the story of one.

    Meet Samaher. She is a 30 year old single mother from Syria. She is Muslim, has an 11 year old son, and lives at the refugee settlement with her family. She is also an insulin diabetic. Our teams have come to know her well, as she comes in every day to get new ice packs for her insulin.

    Medical volunteer Ashley acted quickly to help save Samaher's life.

    One morning, Samaher’s nephew ran to the Medical Teams staff. Something was wrong - Samaher was in her tent and not responding. When our medical volunteer, Ashley, arrived she found Samaher in a dangerous diabetic state - “unresponsive, drooling and with a blood sugar of 21.” Normal blood sugar is higher than 80. This can be fatal without treatment. Ashley and her team had to act fast. The stakes were especially high. If something happened, it wasn’t just her life at stake - her child would be left orphaned, as well.

    One team member rushed back to the clinic to call an ambulance and collect IV supplies. With the help of neighbors, the team loaded Samaher onto a blanket stretcher and carried her to the clinic. By the time they arrived, she was starting to seize. Acting quickly, Ashley showed Samaher’s brave nephew how to keep her airway open by lifting her chin, and she started an IV. Teamwork was needed to make sure Samaher stayed alive.

    Ashley rode in the back of the ambulance, keeping Samaher safe as she was still confused and combative from low blood sugars and kept trying to pull out the IV.

    As soon as she arrived at the hospital, they started Samaher on large doses of dextrose. Thankfully, she slowly started recovering. The next morning, they brought her back the clinic to teach her some critical ways to keep her diabetes in check -- the team emphasized the importance of always eating before taking insulin and that coffee with milk and sugar did not constitute a meal. These simple tricks could help save her life, especially in the challenging camp conditions where insulin can be hard to come by.

    Life in Syrian refugee settlements can be hard and many struggle like Samaher. We are blessed to work with incredible volunteers who are working hard to provide primary care to mothers, refugees and families in need around the world.

    Because of your support, our volunteers can help educate, treat and save the lives of people like Samaher.

  • In Haiti, fears of cholera persist

    by Tyler Graf | Nov 10, 2016

    Haiti, Cazeau Mobile Medical Unit, Nov. 2016
    Medical Teams International staff conduct cholera prevention activities in southern Haiti.

    A month after Hurricane Matthew devastated communities in Haiti, cholera made a suspected appearance along the southern coast.

    In response to this information, national and international staff from Medical Teams International traveled to the affected area and conducted a situation assessment at the houses of each of the suspected cases.

    Medical Teams decided to conduct a Mobile Medical Unit in the area of Cazeau, a small community that had seen an uptick in cholera cases. Out of a small church, staff and volunteer medical professionals set up handwashing stations and conducted educational sessions on prevention and preparedness.

    Because contaminated water leads to the spread of cholera, Medical Teams’ national nursing staff also distributed chlorine powder and oral rehydration solution. These activities were well received by members of the community, who were thankful for the support they were receiving.

    Efforts to quell fears are gaining steady traction.

    A month after Hurricane Matthew pummeled Haiti's southern coast, fears over cholera remain high. On Tuesday, the country launched its largest ever vaccination campaign. The hope is to vaccinate 800,000 people in areas hit hardest by the storm.


  • Disaster planning receives a royal visitor

    by Tyler Graf | Nov 03, 2016

    Prince Harry
    Prince Harry meets with members of Medical Teams International at Triplex, the preeminent disaster response gathering.

    Though the humanitarian response was just a simulation for humanitarian aid workers from around the globe, one royal VIP was very real.

    Prince Harry swung through the preeminent humanitarian response exercise in the world late last month, even spending a few minutes with representatives of Medical Teams International for a short confab.

    It happened at Triplex, the Norway-based simulation of the first 72 hours of a large-scale, sudden-onset disaster. Medical Teams International took part in the five-day exercise from Sept. 24-30, alongside aid organizations from around the world. 

    Prince Harry made his surprise visit by helicopter, dropping in on the action to learn more about the coordination efforts and to mingle with aid workers.

    Prince Harry’s presence added an extra dash of reality to the largest coordinated humanitarian activity outside an actual, real-world crisis. The simulation, with its royal visitor, ended just days before a real-life storm began threatening the Caribbean.

    Involving 500 people from 76 countries, Triplex places aid workers in the midst of a simulated humanitarian response. They set up camp, coordinate with the United Nations and even assess and “treat” actors playing disaster victims.

    Medical Teams International sent six representatives – including two medical volunteers – to Norway to take part in the exercise, paid for by the European Union.

    Roger Sandberg, director of Medical Teams’ Humanitarian Response Team, said it was important to test emergency preparedness, coordination and assessment in the field and at HQ. “It’s a big commitment for everyone involved,” Sandberg said of the simulation, which is held every three years.

    The simulation further improves Medical Teams’ ability to mobilize a response in the event of a crisis, Sandberg said. Medical Teams recently dispatched volunteer doctors and nurses to operate mobile medical units in communities leveled by Hurricane Matthew. This team is seeing dozens of patients a day, some of whom suffer from bodily trauma while others are at risk of contracting serious illnesses.

    The disaster simulated during Triplex was a hurricane sweeping through an imaginary country called “Sorland” already suffering from high flooding.

    The next Triplex won’t be held until 2019, with two years of planning taking place before it commences. Medical Teams plans to take part in the next Triplex to continue improving our ability to respond to disasters and help people in need.

  • Massa: Empowering Others

    by Emily Sitler | Nov 01, 2016

    Imagine being nine months pregnant and a five hour walk from the closest clinic. Unable to afford other transportation, motorcycle drivers won’t take you because you’re too far along in your pregnancy - it’s too risky. On your arduous walk to the clinic, you give birth on the side of the road. Infant and maternal mortality chances greatly increase. This is what childbirth is like for too many women in Massa’s community in Liberia.


    Liberia’s long civil war destroyed the country’s healthcare system, leaving it damaged and heavily dependent on outside funding. With a population of over 4 million, less than 200 doctors and nurses were left to serve. Access is very limited - it’s no wonder pregnant women from remote villages have to travel so far to give birth in a clinic.

    Medical Teams has been establishing programs in Liberia that build up and empower healthcare systems so that they can develop greater capacity and become more capable of providing quality care- with the goal of saving many more lives.

    This is how we met Massa. Pregnant and mother of two, she had walked five hours to the clinic to receive an antenatal check up. Massa is on a Quality Improvement Team, one that Medical Teams has organized with the communities and clinic staff, that engages the community in addressing the health related problems of the community. She joined the team because she wants to help the community develop and thrive.  

    She has previously given birth in the clinic and plans on doing the same for her next child, even though it means she will have to walk five hours into town during her final weeks of pregnancy and stay with friends until her labor begins. She has also been encouraging other community members to get involved and address the issues of unsafe pregnancies that exist.

    Massa has a vision of safer and better solutions for women like herself. With the distance from her village to the clinic, she would like to see a bigger clinic and a place for mothers to stay after they deliver their babies. Women like Massa are changing health in Liberia. Massa is a very impressive young lady with vision, resolve and energy. We’re proud to come alongside her and help bring better health to families around the world.