Josephine: An Ebola Survivor Story

She is Josephine. And her story is one of survival and heartbreaking loss in the time of Ebola.

This video premiered at the Compassion Gala 2015 in Kansas City on May 9, 2015 – a very important date in the fight against the Ebola virus – as this date Liberia was declared Ebola-free.

Sadly, this is not the case any more, as a handful of EVD case have brought Ebola back into Liberia.  Learn more and find out what’s next for Heart to Heart International in Liberia.

 

 

VIDEO: Working Together to Fight Ebola

A new video gives a glimpse into the early days of Heart to Heart International’s Operation Ebola in Liberia and showcases the importance of partnership to combat the Ebola epidemic.

For many weeks, Heart to Heart International CEO Jim Mitchum has been in Liberia overseeing the building of the organizational infrastructure needed to support the opening of an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU).   Along with Country Director Julie Hefner and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rene Vega, our team in Liberia has been putting all the pieces into place, hiring staff, and coordinating with multiple aid agencies as part of the global response to the epidemic.

Watch the video to learn the reasons why HHI has taken on the responsibility of running an ETU.  Hear from our new Liberian staff members about their desire to bring healthcare to their people and why it’s so important that HHI has come to help.  And learn how we’re working in partnership with other NGOs, like the International Medical Corps, to tackle this continuing humanitarian crisis.

 

Video by: Blake Nelson

 

HHI to Open Ebola Treatment Unit in Liberia

Heart to Heart International CEO Jim Mitchum announced today (October 7, 2014) that HHI would open an Ebola Treatment Unit in Liberia to help combat the Ebola epidemic.

Mitchum_Cameras

Mitchum: “This is no small task, nor was it an easy decision. Running an ETU in Liberia will be the most complex and challenging humanitarian effort we have ever undertaken.” 

Mitchum made the announcement at a press conference held at the new HHI headquarters in Lenexa, KS in front of a bank of cameras and news reporters. “After careful deliberation, we have decided to go to Liberia where we will open and operate a 70-bed Ebola Treatment Unit,” Mitchum said.  The ETU is already under construction in Kakata, a city about 50 miles from the capital of Monrovia.  HHI will join two other NGOs who are already operating ETUs in Liberia.

Read more of HHI’s plan to open an Ebola Treatment Unit

Joining Mitchum for the announcement was Dr. Lee Norman, Chief Medical Officer of the University of Kansas Hospital who supported the plan laid out by Mitchum, and offered “we at KU Hospital have systems in place to assure you that should Heart to Heart volunteers and staff, and their worried families, need our care, we are here to help you.”

Dr. Lee Norman

 

Also on hand – Tamba Hali, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs professional football team. Hali spent much of his childhood in war torn Liberia and offered support for HHI’s plan to help the people of his home country.  “The country’s been in chaos and Heart to Heart’s coming in,” Hali said. “I don’t think there’s another organization that does what they do. We just need more effort. These are good people. We’re all human beings. We’re all good people. We all want to do the right thing.”

Tamba at presser

 

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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A Clinic That Ebola Closed

The Life Care Health Clinic is just one clinic in the Liberian countryside, but its story is shared by so many across this country.  It’s a story of frustration, incapacity and loss of knowing what could possibly be done next.

Life Care Health Clinic

The clinic is located in the interestingly named Soul Clinic community of Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, Liberia.  Our team – myself, Gary, Sue, Dan – along with James, our guide, came to learn more about how health providers are faring in this time of Ebola, and to provide some supplies we had brought with us. We had an opportunity to sit and talk with the small clinic staff and listened mostly to Mr. Tia, the clinic administrator, as he talked about his clinic, the community and what they’ve had to deal with.

This tiny clinic has a two-bed male ward, two-bed female ward, a delivery room, a pharmacy, and it serves a community of about 4,000 people.  When Ebola came into their community they were unprepared for the onslaught of patients, and woefully under-supplied and under-staffed.

They had no way to protect themselves from the Ebola virus, nor did they have a way to determine who actually has Ebola or who has something else like a bad case of malaria or cholera.  At first they tried to just turn away those that had symptoms, but it quickly became clear that it was hard to tell who was infected with Ebola and who wasn’t.  So the difficult decision was made that they simply must close the clinic.

Gary & Sue at Soul Clinic

Sue & Gary with Life Care Health Clinic staff in Liberia

 

Mr. Tia told us that out of 50 deaths in the past few months, maybe 20 to 30 are from Ebola and that perhaps the rest could have been prevented with regular medical care, but there is no way for people to get treated now.  Beyond Ebola, his biggest concern is people dying of malaria, which is so much more common than Ebola.

We listened, sitting on the porch of the clinic as the African rains fell, and thanked Mr. Tia and his staff for sharing their stories and concerns.  Before we departed, we left one of our Ready Relief Boxes full of medical supplies, thermometers, disposable stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs.

We wanted to do more.  As we drove away we hoped that soon we will.

 

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!

 

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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.

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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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