A well run mission trip doesn’t just happen. Instead a mountain of work and preparation must be hand packed into each one: from travel plans to logistics to supplies, personnel, and much more. Please read our Blue Team’s Kathy Aries’ thoughts about her role as quartermaster of supplies and equipment.
“Planning.. for a week of surgery in a foreign country can be a daunting task. Fortunately, I’ve had a wonderful mentor in the person of Laurie Dauphin of the Red Team. She is one of the very earliest members of our organization, and has mentored me with patience and humor – both very important mission qualities.
In the Dominican Republic where we started our work, there are rural hospitals that look nice from the outside, but once inside they are empty. On my first mission experience I noted the corridor labeled “OR and Delivery” was locked, sitting unused. Once inside I realized the task at hand. The rooms were empty. The in country support staff unloaded a truck of OR tables, lights, anesthesia machines and some odds and ends. The equipment had seen much better days. We were lucky if any of the tables had all their parts. The lights were dim, at best. We proceeded to empty all the bags diligently packed by Laurie and other missionaries here in the US; they contained EVERYTHING else we needed for a week of surgery! In a matter of 4-5 hours a fantastic team effort had turned dusty, empty rooms into fully functional state of the (possible) art Operating Rooms. How was this done?
Well… it takes a constant effort by many people back home. I am now in charge of gathering, ordering, and packing the supplies for Dr. Bourque’s Blue team. I have the wholehearted support of the staff here at Saint Francis Hospital and am so grateful for this. In the Operating and Delivery Rooms there are supplies that have to be wasted – it can’t be helped; OR and Delivery packs that are opened and not used, cannot be reused so they are wasted. National patient safety requirements are strict about opened operating room supply packs.The staff in these units save these supplies. I then repack what I can use and it is sterilized by Central Supply Service. When Central runs their own sterilization loads of equipment for the next day’s surgery schedule, they slip in a pack or two at a time. Needless to say, I need to make packs throughout the year so I don’t overwhelm Central all at once. That way it doesn’t cost the hospital anything extra. The hospital is charged by weight for its waste, so by reusing these supplies we are actually saving money.
We can get most, but not all, of what we need from the waste. The hospital will generously donate what else is needed (like sterile gloves, sutures, catheters, IV tubing, etc…). There are some supplies that I’ll call companies for a donation like Chloraprep (a great item used for sterilizing the skin prior to surgery). The last time I called them, they wanted to send 3 pallets worth but I graciously took just one. I have found that companies and people are very generous and want to help by donating things (though often it’s time I need the most!)
A few months before the scheduled trip I start to order supplies needed from the storeroom and start packing in our dedicated mission bags. I try to keep in mind what doctors may need or like but it’s pretty difficult to plan for every contingency. The team becomes very flexible and incredibly creative as we work in difficult conditions. One year the recovery room nurses used all the extra non-sterile gowns as sheets for the recovery beds (there is no linen of any kind).
Each missionary going with us on our trip will carry a personal bag and a “mission” bag. Each is carefully weighed to make sure it doesn’t go over the airline limit of 50 lbs. This translates to a lot of “stuff” collected, sorted and repacked. My packing list is constantly being reviewed trip by trip, fine tuned and adjusted year to year.
The task is daunting and time consuming, but by keeping those less fortunate in mind, it’s really nothing at all.”