At the Front End of the World’s Response to Ebola

Dr. Gary Morsch, founder of Heart to Heart International, is a member of HHI’s Advance Team in West Africa.  The team has gone to Liberia, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, to determine how HHI can respond further to stop this terrible virus.
What follows is an excerpt from Dr. Morsch’s journal, written as the team traveled in Liberia, meeting with other aid organizations and visiting Ebola treatment centers.

Gary in Liberia

Members of the HHI Advance Team, Dr. Gary Morsch (dark blue shirt) and Julie Hefner (with notebook), visit the ELWA Hospital and Ebola Treatment Center in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, Liberia.


Gary Morsch, MD:  Once again, Heart to Heart International is responding to a global disaster.  But this crisis is unlike any other in modern times.  It’s Ebola, one of the world’s most dreaded diseases. Ebola means nearly certain death – a terrible, painful death, with profuse bleeding both internally and externally. That’s why it’s called Hemorrhagic Fever.  Though there have been sporadic outbreaks since the disease was first identified in 1976, this is by far, the largest outbreak of this virus in history.  Ebola, with mortality rates that can approach 90% and with no effective treatment or cure, is perhaps the most feared of all infectious diseases.

This unprecedented epidemic is located in a handful of West African countries, with Liberia taking the brunt of it.  To date, nearly 7,000 have been infected, and more than 3,000 have died.  Experts are panicking because the disease is growing exponentially, literally day by day, with fears that it could pass a point in which it would be unmanageable. The only hope is to get control of the Ebola epidemic quickly, and turn the tide before it gets out of control.

Why is HHI involved? It’s what we do. When there’s a significant crisis anywhere in the world, we ask ourselves if there is an effective and appropriate role that we can play. Our strengths are built on two pillars.

First, we have developed one of the most effective logistics systems in the world.  Because of our reputation for delivering high quality products to the most remote places on earth, pharmaceutical and medical companies donate about $100 million dollars of pharmaceuticals and supplies to HHI each year.  These are shipped in a timely manner primarily through our transportation partner, FedEx. In this current crisis, HHI has already shipped in 18 pallets of medical supplies that are being used to treat Ebola patients by our partners the International Medical Corps. More is about to leave our warehouse.

Our second strength is our network of volunteers, both medical and non-medical. This is part of why we’ve traveled to Liberia. In addition to the medicines and supplies we’re delivering, we are asking:  is there an opportunity to effectively and safely use medical volunteers in this current crisis?  We shall soon find out!



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Advance Team in Liberia on Front Lines of Ebola Fight

The HHI Advance Team arrived in Liberia and is already hard at work – meeting with partners, touring facilities and getting a lay of the land – prepping the way for the deployment of volunteer medical teams to provide care for the people of Liberia.

Advance Team & James

The team is being assisted by James Williams (striped shirt in photo above), the acting director of Healthy Women, Healthy Liberia, a Liberian non-profit that develops community-based healthcare programs.  James is helping to serve as a guide for our Advance Team.  A great connection!

Team member Sue Mangicaro, RN, from HHI’s corporate partner Welch Allyn, reports they heard both good and bad news when they met with representatives of Medical Teams International.  The good: MTI is in the process of training community healthcare workers on prevention and treatment of Ebola, however the bad is that they have had to pull their staff out of clinics because of the inherent risks involved in triage and contracting the disease.  The real fear of Ebola is causing the healthcare system to collapse, as HHI CEO Jim Mitchum recently discussed in an op-ed.

MTI clinic closed

A clinic closed in Monrovia, Liberia due to the Ebola outbreak.


handwashing station

Pictured above is one of many handwashing stations the team has come across in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia.  They reported the smell of bleach hangs in the air, a comforting aroma, as bleach is used to kill the Ebola virus on surfaces, protective equipment and on skin.

Look for more updates from the Advance Team in Liberia soon!


Donate now to sustain OPERATION EBOLA and help save lives in West Africa.

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Advance Team Departs for Liberia in Fight Against Ebola

Three members of Heart to Heart International’s Advance Team left from Kansas City International airport Sunday, September 21, 2014, and will be joined by a 4th member in New York before flying to Liberia by way of Morocco.


It’ll be a long journey to get to Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia as air carriers have been restricting or cancelling flights to the country due to the Ebola Outbreak.  The team is also loaded down with supplies.  They’re carrying six extra-large bags full of medicine and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the team’s use in the Ebola hot zone.

Watch local Kansas City news coverage of Advance Team departure


Advance Team

Three of four Advance Team members (l to r): Dr. Gary Morsch, Julie Hefner, Dan Neal


The team’s goal is to pave the way for HHI to deploy teams of volunteer doctors and nurses in the coming weeks and months into West Africa.  Besides the dire need for medical and protective supplies to fight the virus and treat Ebola patients, there is a desperate need to have more medical providers, nurses and health workers on the ground to provide primary care and more.

Advance Team members:

Dr. Gary Morsch, Founder, HHI
Dan Neal, Director of Global Operations, HHI
Julie Hefner, International Liaison Officer, HHI
Sue Mangicaro, RN – Clinical Affairs Director, Welch Allyn

The HHI Advance Team will be in Liberia for a little more than a week working with partners on the ground like the International Medical Corps, the World Health Organization (WHO) and local government officials to coordinate a broader response, and to assess medical supply needs and determine ways to meet and expand the number of shipments.

See emergency Ebola relief supplies leave HHI’s Global Distribution Center

Because of the Ebola epidemic the limited healthcare system in the affected countries is collapsing creating a Crisis within the Crisis.  This is where Heart to Heart International can do a lot of good, by drawing on the experience and bravery of our medical volunteers to help provide this care.

Donate now to sustain OPERATION EBOLA and help save lives in West Africa.

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Ebola Relief Aid Ships to Liberia

The first shipment of OPERATION EBOLA relief aid left Heart to Heart International’s Global Distribution Center today, September 8th, 2014.

Eighteen pallets of medical aid and supplies were loaded into a FedEx truck bound for Liberia, to be used by front line health workers in the fight against the Ebola Epidemic.  This first shipment contained massive quantities of supplies desperately needed in the field. Watch the video…

Wrapped up and on the way are thousands of needles and syringes courtesy of BD, one of HHI’s long time corporate partners.  Also in the shipment – thousands of exam gloves and thousands of face masks.  All items that health workers need, items that are running low or have run out in the fight to stop the spread of Ebola.

Help us ship more aid!  Donate now to sustain OPERATION EBOLA and help save lives in West Africa.

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Ebola Epidemic Updates

The Ebola Epidemic as of February 4, 2015

Total Suspected/Confirmed Cases – 22,495

Total Deaths – 8,981

Liberia,  Sierra Leone, Guinea

Others Countries Affected: Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the UK and the United States of America


Visit Operation Ebola to learn more and to Donate to our Ebola response.

See the World Health Organization’s latest Ebola Situation Report  which includes total numbers affected by the Ebola epidemic.



OCTOBER 20 – Nigeria has been declared officially free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

OCTOBER 10 – The BBC reports “The number of deaths attributed to the Ebola outbreak has risen above 4,000, the World Health Organization says.”

OCTOBER 1 –  The Los Angeles Times reports that five elementary, middle and high school students had contact with a man diagnosed in Dallas with Ebola and are being monitored.

SEPTEMBER 30 – A Dallas hospital diagnoses the first patient with Ebola in the US. The man left Liberia Sept. 19 and arrived in the USA the next day but had no symptoms when leaving Africa or arriving here, said Thomas Frieden, the CDC director. (USA Today)

SEPTEMBER 23 – From the New York Times:  the CDC releases worst-case scenario if the disease keeps following its current trajectory, without effective methods to contain it – Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20.

SEPTEMBER 23 – The HHI Advance Team arrives safely in Liberia, the epicenter of the Ebola Outbreak.

Advance TeamSEPTEMBER 21 – The Advance Team for Heart to Heart International departs for Liberia.  They’ll coordinate with relief agencies and other groups to lay the groundwork for deployment of volunteer teams of doctors and nurses into the Ebola hot zone.



SEPTEMBER 16President Barack Obama on Tuesday called West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak a looming threat to global security and announced a major expansion of the U.S. role in trying to halt its spread, including deployment of 3,000 troops to the region. (Reuters)

SEPTEMBER 12The number of new Ebola cases in West Africa is growing faster than authorities can manage them, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, renewing a call for health workers from around the world to go to the region to help. (Reuters)

SEPTEMBER 11 – Op-ed in the New York Times by Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, paints a grim picture of the Ebola epidemic if major action is not taken nowArticle sums up the ‘why’ Heart to Heart International has launched OPERATION EBOLA.

SEPTEMBER 9 A fourth patient with Ebola virus disease has arrived in the USA for treatment.  The patient arrived at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, after being flown from West Africa in an air ambulance, according to hospital officials. (USA TODAY)

SEPTEMBER 8 – The World Health Organization issues a dire Ebola warning about Liberia, saying that the number of afflicted patients was increasing exponentially, that nearly all the country has confirmed cases and that all new treatment facilities were overwhelmed. (NY Times)

Ebola supplies loadedSEPTEMBER 8 – First shipment of 18 pallets packed with thousands of gloves, masks, needles and syringes leave the HHI Global Distribution Center bound for Liberia.  Read more and watch a video of the supplies being loaded and leaving.



Ebola 1st shipment #2SEPTEMBER 4Heart to Heart International launches OPERATION EBOLA: a multi-phase relief operation to combat the spread of Ebola in West Africa through multiple shipments of critical aid and supplies to front line health workers & will send an Ebola Assessment Team to pave the way for teams of medical volunteers.  First shipment of 18 pallets of aid (pictured) is packaged & ready to ship.



SEPTEMBER 4 – WHO releases new numbers of Ebola-affected people – Cases rise above 3,500; Deaths approach 2,000.

SEPTEMBER 3 – A 3rd American doctor has contracted Ebola in Liberia after returning to the country after other Americans were sickened. The doctor was not caring for Ebola patients, but was delivering babies in a maternity ward.

AUGUST 29 – The Ebola virus has spread to a 5th west African country, Senegal.  This comes a week after Senegal closed its borders with Guinea.

AUGUST 27“It’s even worse than I’d feared,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday of the Ebola outbreak rampaging through West Africa. “Every day this outbreak goes on, it increases the risk for another export to another country.” (from CNN)

AUGUST 26The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday it had shut a laboratory in Sierra Leone after a health worker there was infected with Ebola, a move that may hamper efforts to boost the global response to the worst ever outbreak of the disease. (from Reuters)

AUGUST 25 – The WHO releases new numbers of medical staff infected with Ebola.  In the four countries – more than 240 health workers infected, half have died.

AUGUST 24NEW OUTBREAKAs many as 13 people have died of Ebola in The Democratic Republic of Congo, a separate outbreak from the one raging in West African nations.

AUGUST 18-22 – HHI’s staff begins building its first relief shipment at the Global Distribution Center; Planning begins on expanding relief effort to possibly include personnel on the ground.

 The Wall Street Journal publishes a story highlighting the devastating effect Ebola continues to have on health workers and the healthcare system in the Ebola outbreak zone due to a lack of basic medical supplies like gloves and other personal protection.

AUGUST 15 Two companies based in the Kansas City Metro – Lathrop & Gage, LLP and CBIZ, Inc. – hold a Wear Your Jeans to Work Day to raise funds to support HHI’s Ebola Response.

AUGUST 13 – Heart to Heart International launches a response to the West Africa Ebola Outbreak, coordinating with long-time partner, the International Medical Corps, to begin providing the protective medical supplies needed by health workers on the front lines in the fight against the Ebola Virus.

– The world becomes aware of the toll on health workers in the outbreak areas as the WHO releases numbers of Ebola cases.  It becomes clear that without protective medical gear doctors, nurses and other health workers can’t protect themselves and treat Ebola patients.

AUGUST 8, 2014 – The World Health Organization (WHO) declares the continuing Ebola Outbreak to be an international public health emergency. The news of no immediate end in sight to this current outbreak sends a chill through the humanitarian aid world.

DECEMBER 2013Ebola outbreak in West Africa is reported to have begun in the country of Guinea in December 2013, where a 2-year-old child is believed to have contracted the disease.  The virus spreads to neighboring countries of Liberia & Sierra Leone, as well as Nigeria.

New Epidemic Rapidly Spreads Across Haiti

Chikungunya Virus in Haiti(MAY 2014) – A new epidemic has exploded across Haiti in recent days, already sickening thousands and stressing an already taxed healthcare system.  The epidemic has doubled the amount of patients at the Heart to Heart clinics in Port-au-Prince and in Leogane.  Even some members of our HHI staff are now coming down with this illness.

chikungunya-virusAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): the Chikungunya Virus (pronounced: chih-koon-Goon-yah) appeared for the first time in the Americas in December 2013 on the island of St. Martin and from there has spread quickly across the Caribbean.  It’s an illness that has until now been confined to the other side of the world, mostly in Africa and Asia.  Now that it’s the rainy season on Hispaniola – Chikungunya is spreading exponentially in Haiti.

Chikungunya is spread by the bite of the Aedes mosquito, and while rarely fatal, it is a debilitating illness. The symptoms are similar to those of dengue fever, another disease spread by these mosquitoes.
Someone afflicted with Chikungunya will have:

  • fever
  • swollen joints
  • joint pain, sometimes severe
  • may also have a headache, muscle pain and a rash

Many people afflicted by this illness will feel better in about a week. However, in certain cases, the joint pain will become chronic and last for months, even for a few years.  Again the CDC cautions that there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat the chikungunya virus infection.

But we’re doing what we can.  We’re increasing the number of Haitian medical staff at our clinics to handle the patient overload, working to treat the symptoms with what works – fluids and pain/fever reducing medicine, and mounting an education operation to deliver mosquito netting and to inform people as to this newest disease to afflict Haiti.

This outbreak of Chikungunya Fever is exactly why HHI needs to be prepared to respond quickly to people in need. We’ve already taken action. We had to.  But we can only sustain our response, and prepare for what comes next, by donors stepping up to help.



CDC Foundation Honors Heart to Heart

Heart to Heart is very proud to be recognized for our work to improve health and broaden access to healthcare in Haiti.

CDCF_logoJust this week, the Centers for Disease Control Foundation announced the completion of two new public health buildings in Haiti in partnership with the Haiti Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP or Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population).

Codio & AwardAt the same event in Port-au-Prince, the CDC Foundation also honored Heart to Heart International for our long term commitment to the country and the people of Haiti.  HHI Haiti staff member Dr. Frantz Codio accepted the award on behalf of everyone at Heart to Heart.

CDC Foundation AwardThe award reads:  With deep gratitude to Heart to Heart International for your commitment to improving the health of the People of the Republic of Haiti – February 25, 2013.

Again, very honored to be recognized in this way.  Many thanks to the CDC Foundation.  Let’s keep up the good work!