Jan 19, 2021

A Tent-and Light at the End of the Tunnel

COVID-19 patients receive antibody transfusions
COVID-19 patients receive antibody transfusions

When COVID-19 shook our world in the spring of 2020, the medical community had to scramble to catch up. In those urgent early days, as states across the US struggled to assemble mass testing sites, hospitals coped with staggeringly high patient loads. As part of our biggest emergency response to date, International Medical Corps deployed 33 emergency medical field units across the US to give underserved, overwhelmed hospitals the extra space they needed to serve critical COVID patients.

Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago received one of these medical tents from International Medical Corps in May. The hospital, located in the thick of urban Chicago in a gentrifying community that hosts a significant homeless and underinsured population, was hit hard by COVID-19 in the spring due to the large number of nursing homes in the area. “We had no bed availability at all and had to open up portions of the hospital that would normally not house patients,” says Dr. Suzanne, Weiss’s COVID-19 medical director. She explains, “Functioning at full capacity for two months straight was very, very hard on our hospital.”

The donation from International Medical Corps proved to be “a tremendous help” in providing extra capacity, both because of the additional space the tent provided and the accompanying materials that made it fully operational, such as cots, monitoring equipment, HEPA filters and more.

“As a small community hospital, I just didn't think that we would ever get this sort of attention. But because of International Medical Corps’ support, we have finally been able to provide the higher standard of care that I always wanted for our patients,” says Dr. Suzanne.

The tent started off as a safe environment for COVID testing, but by the end of November had transformed into an area used for infusions of a recently approved treatment: monoclonal antibodies known as Bamlanivimab and Casirivimab/Imdevimab. The “most effective COVID-19 prevention measure we’ve seen to date” according to Dr. Suzanne, these antibodies contain a manufactured protein designed to impede the spike protein of COVID-19, suppressing the virus’s ability to replicate. “Every patient that we have infused has done quite well,” says Dr. Suzanne. “I call them 48 hours after the infusion and 100% have said, ‘I feel dramatically better.’”

Weiss was the first hospital in Chicago to be able to do the infusions, which Dr. Suzanne credits to having the International Medical Corps tent. She reports that the other hospitals in the area that received antibodies from the federal government are still trying to figure out how to safely bring known COVID-positive patients into their environments to give them the antibodies. “But for us, it was just seamless, because we had a dedicated environment already ready to go,” says Dr. Suzanne. “We are so proud that we’ve been able to be the first hospital in Chicago to do this—and it absolutely was only because of the donation.”

Dr. Suzanne’s gratitude for the support from International Medical Corps stems in large part from the absolute exhaustion she and her colleagues feel serving on the frontlines of this pandemic. “The first surge was very, very tough for the entire medical community at large because we didn’t know what we were dealing with and everyone was afraid for their patients, seeing them progress so rapidly and not knowing how to help them,” she says. “That emotional impact, coupled with the physical toll, led many people to step away from medicine during that time, leaving more responsibility on the shoulders of those who did remain actively at the bedside caring for COVID patients,” she continued.

Dr. Suzanne feels the hospital is much more prepared to respond, thanks to its partnership with International Medical Corps. “This partnership is something that I’ve come to really cherish, and it’s helped me feel hope that—by having organizations like International Medical Corps partner with our hospital—we can really help so many people get through this,” she says. “And now, having the antibody infusions as a way to prevent the need for hospitalization, I see even more light at the end of the tunnel here.”

Thanks to the generosity of the GlobalGiving Community and other donors, International Medical Corps continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and around the world.

Our team sets up a tent at Weiss Memorial Hospital
Our team sets up a tent at Weiss Memorial Hospital
Jan 12, 2021

A Lifesaving Surgery Provides a New Start

Emmanuel with Dr. Joseph one year after surgery
Emmanuel with Dr. Joseph one year after surgery

In May 2019, Emmanuel, aged 4, was brought by his mother to the International Medical Corps-supported health facility at the Malakal Teaching Hospital in South Sudan. Emmanuel suffered from a rare abdominal condition—his liver was outside his abdominal cavity, protected only by his skin, and a corresponding mass had formed on his umbilical region.

Emmanuel’s mother, 29-year-old Lucia, had traveled to several different local health facilities seeking help. Each one referred her to a larger hospital.

“When I took Emmanuel to the other health facilities, I was advised to take him to either Khartoum or Nairobi, but I could not afford the trip,” she explains. “Meanwhile, the mass was growing and my child was getting sick, weak and could not play with other children.”

A single mother of two, Lucia lives with her children at her parents’ home in Malakal. She has no stable income to provide for her family, and relies on humanitarian assistance to make ends meet.

When news of Emmanuel’s ailment reached International Medical Corps, our medical personnel visited the home and listened to Lucia’s touching story of her son’s plight. They immediately recommended that she take Emmanuel to our health facility for treatment.

After International Medical Corps surgeon Dr. Joseph examined Emmanuel, he and a dedicated medical team performed a successful surgery on the boy’s abdomen. The procedure consisted of separating the liver from the abdominal skin, opening the abdominal cavity and placing the liver within it. “We were surprised that the mass corresponded to the abnormal location of the liver,” says Dr. Joseph.

Emmanuel responded well to treatment after the surgery and was discharged from the hospital after 15 days. One year later, Emmanuel had fully recovered and returned to the hospital for his final follow-up appointment.

“Emmanuel’s grandparents and I are so happy and thankful for what International Medical Corps has done for my child,” says Lucia. “You saved my son’s life and we didn’t have to travel abroad to seek better care, a cost that I couldn't have managed.”

International Medical Corps provides comprehensive, integrated primary and secondary healthcare services at the protection-of-civilians site in Malakal. The facility includes an operating theatre for emergency surgeries that is the only functional surgical center for obstetrical and emergency cases in Upper Nile state. Patients from across the region come there for treatment.

Emmanuel waits to be examined at the hospital
Emmanuel waits to be examined at the hospital
Dec 1, 2020

Responding to the Catastrophic Explosion in Lebanon

Mobile Medical Unit deployed to Beirut
Mobile Medical Unit deployed to Beirut

International Medical Corps responds to emergencies around the world, no matter where, no matter the conditions. But our teams do not often find themselves responding to unexpected emergencies in their own neighborhoods. On August 4, 2020 – when a massive explosion tore through Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least 220 people, injuring more than 6,000 and leaving some 300,000 homeless – our team did.

International Medical Corps has about 100 staff members based in Beirut, including Adam, our Project Coordinator, who was running near the Port of Beirut at the time of the explosion. “On the way, as I got closer, there was a series of small fireworks. A few moments later, a very big explosion stopped me in my tracks,” Adam explained. “A huge fireball went up. Then the white blast, sphere-like cloud came directly at me. In the split seconds after seeing the explosion, I hit the ground to try and protect myself. I thought I was about to be incinerated on the floor.” Luckily, Adam was uninjured. Following the explosion, he recalls, “I navigated through central Beirut, which was just totally catastrophic. Glass, buildings destroyed, the facades in disrepair, many, many people injured.”

The blast left more than half of Beirut’s health facilities non-functional. The remaining facilities were overwhelmed, limiting the amount of emergency care available in Beirut. Healthcare workers were reportedly among the killed, and nurses and doctors were in high demand. The blast also affected the country’s stores of vaccines, medicines, medical equipment and reproductive health supplies, leading to acute shortages of vital medicines.

“The blast was really a big disaster. Most people in Beirut were affected. The big issue is that people lost their houses and there were around 300,000 people without shelter. There is a lot of work to be done,” described Dr. Nada, Sr. Medical Advisor.

International Medical Corps quickly launched an emergency response, coordinating efforts with international aid agencies, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and other international non-governmental organizations in the country. We provide medicine, medical and cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) to some 27 hospitals and other healthcare centers. In the months following the explosion, we distributed more than 160,000 masks, 300,000 pairs of nitrile gloves and 16,000 surgical gowns, and our efforts continue today.

In addition, we deployed two mobile medical units (MMUs) and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) shelters, providing medical care and mental health services to patients affected by the blast. The MMUs, operating in the first weeks of the blast’s impact, provided critical relief to healthcare facilities, while meeting the urgent needs of residents. During that time our team provided medical consultations to 1,121 patients.

Rima, International Medical Corps’ Communications Manager in Lebanon, recounted, “We treated wounds, stitches, and the mental health team was available to provide psychological first aid to all those affected. The support that we have received from all over the world has been tremendous. It has made a huge difference and we’re very, very grateful.”

With the generosity of the GlobalGiving community and other donors, International Medical Corps has responded immediately to the explosion in Beirut and continues to address the needs that persist – providing PPE, medical supplies, medical care and mental health services to those affected by the blast. Thank you!

Psychological First Aid Consultation Booth
Psychological First Aid Consultation Booth
Providing hygiene supplies in affected communities
Providing hygiene supplies in affected communities
Distributing PPE following the blast
Distributing PPE following the blast
 
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