Medical and ethics professionals across the world are having to make decisions about allocating care and resources during the COVID19 pandemic. Many health systems in the US are crafting policies, even as I write, about whether or not to “code” or resuscitate COVID 19 patients. This is as scary to us physicians as it is to you patients. What can you do about it? Stay home. You are less likely to contract the infection if you practice social distancing and stay home. If you stay home, we are less likely to run out of personal protective equipment, less likely to become infected, and hence less likely to have to make decisions or policies that limit our ability to provide care for everyone. For more information on this topic, read this article from the Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/25/coronavirus-patients-do-not-resucitate/?utm_campaign=9bcfc89836-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_25_12_50&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Global%20Health%20NOW%20Main%20List
News & Updates
Two years ago my dream became a reality when I started Global Medical and Surgical Teams. I want to thank you for your support and tell you what happens when you contribute your time or donate your money to GMAST: Lives change. It seems a trite statement but it is true.
Because of your gifts, people in remote areas of the world have access to necessary medical and surgical care:
- A tiny baby born with a cleft lip can now breastfeed and get proper nourishment from her mother.
- The baby’s mother, who was shunned by family and community members for giving birth to a baby with a cleft lip, is reunited to her social network
- A 21-year-old man rejoiced, “I can now get married!” he said after his cleft lip was finally repaired
- A 30-year-old woman who had been living with a poorly repaired cleft palate received an obturator (prosthetic device) to close the gap between her mouth and nose so she can speak better and can at last eat and drink without food and liquid spilling out of her nose
Your gifts have further impact:
- These trips are valuable experience for volunteers who travel with our Team. Volunteers often return home resolved with new commitments to help others.
- People who live in Kenya or Uganda are encouraged by our presence and work – as we come alongside them in their need.
- Medical personnel are able to exchange information and learn new skills as they collaborate in the work to care for patients. We partner with local medical teams to invest in long-term, sustainable outcomes.
You change lives through your contributions and we are grateful.
Some examples of how your financial gifts are spent:
We purchase a lot of medical equipment and supplies for each trip. Although we receive some donated supplies, the countries that we travel to have very specific expiration date requirements and many donated medications and sutures have expiration dates that do not meet these requirements. For instance, in Uganda, if we bring ANY medications that expire in less than one year from the date we enter the country, the Ministry of Health can confiscate ALL of our supplies until they have inspected everything and properly disposed of those “short expiration” items. Obviously, this would tie up our supplies until far after the date of our return airplane tickets. We simply can’t take the risk, and so we must purchase longer expiration items to minimize potential risk.
We are committed to providing safe anesthesia and safe surgery so we travel with our own mini hospital of providers, equipment and medication. We also partner with local providers and facilities to enable training and sharing skills and supplies.
We could not do this without you! Each person that travels with us buys their own plane ticket. If we are able (some donors give specifically to help with volunteer expenses), we cover the lodging and food for the volunteers. We also require that each volunteer have travelers’ medical insurance. Last year, an anonymous donor covered this expense for our Uganda team (ranges from $50 to $100 per team member depending on their age). We are grateful for donors who can help with these travel expenses!
I am so proud of our organization and the work that we do. I am moved by the amazing people that I have met during my volunteer medical travels and I am so grateful for the support of friends, family, and complete strangers! You guys are awesome and we truly could not do this work without you. Thank you!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving and know that you are making the world a better place, one smile at a time.
Michelle B. Vessely, MD
Global Medical and Surgical Teams (GMAST) hit the ground running in 2019 and we’d like to pause briefly and tell you what’s been going on.
First, thank you! Without our supporters and volunteers, we could not have accomplished our goals. During our Spring Uganda 2019 trip, we were able to return to Kyotera and provide follow up care to patients we had treated in 2018 as well as treat new patients. This type of ongoing commitment to a community is important for sustainability. We were also able to work with Dr. Katwiire, the medical director at Kyotera Medical Centre to identify a Ugandan surgeon to be trained in cleft lip and palate surgery. This is a crucial step in sustainability as well. Education is one of our overarching goals and we learn from those who live and work in the communities we are assisting and the local medical staff can learn from us as well.
That brings me to our big news–the cleft program at Kyotera Medical Centre has been Smile Train approved! This partnership will ensure high quality ongoing care and will allow the facility to make improvements in infrastructure, and to expand access to cleft surgery to the larger community. During our trip in March, we saw several adults who had lived with cleft lip and or palate deformities for as long as 45 years! It is best to treat cleft lip around 3 months of age and cleft palate around 12 months of age, enabling children to grow and develop with the best results from both a functional (speech, swallowing) and cosmetic standpoint. The lack of specialized surgical care in many countries, including Uganda, means that many patients with treatable surgical diagnoses suffer, become disabled or even die unnecessarily. GMAST is committed to improving access to surgical care.
Finally, we were very pleased with how iTriage, our new mobile electronic medical record (EMR), functioned during the March trip. We will continue to develop and expand this product and share it with other nonprofits.
Looking forward, in 2019 we plan to introduce a portal on our website for potential volunteers to submit “interest forms” and for us to build a network of volunteers for future projects.
Again, it takes a village to do the work that we do. You who read about us, share our information with your friends, donate money and/or time to change lives of people you may never meet–you are our heroes and we are very grateful to walk along side you.
Staying true to our mission: “Global Medical and Surgical Teams partners with medical and surgical staff around the world to serve patients and foster healing. We work through medical and surgical missions, education, training, technology and donor relationships to provide specialized medical and surgical care in underprivileged areas.”
Today We’ve been reflecting on the generous support that you have shown, most recently through our #GivingTuesday fundraising efforts-THANK YOU! In these turbulent times, we find it refreshing to know that so many of us can come together to help others with whom, on the surface, we have little in common. Often we are separated not only by thousands of miles, but also by language, race, religion, gender, education level and culture. We believe that our world needs more people like you, who can find the similarities among others–humanity, kindness, grace, compassion, love for our children and a desire to give our children every opportunity possible. So many of us tend to focus on the differences and let ourselves and others be defined by differences and not by what we have in common. Now more than ever, focusing on goodness, kindness, compassion, healing and caring seems so very important. But, the need in the world is overwhelming, and we may want to throw up our hands, paralyzed by not knowing what to do–and simply do nothing. Time and again we hear stories about individuals who make an enormous difference in the world. One act of kindness, one life touched, one cleft lip repaired–these are but the beginning of the ripple effect. Thank you for extending your helping hands instead of throwing them up in frustration.
From a public health standpoint, the repair of a cleft lip or palate is just the beginning, the first tiny ripple in the lake. In a Low or Middle Income Country (LMIC) the surgery can yield not only an improvement in form and function for the individual child (ability to eat, drink, speak, attend school, marry and work), but also benefits his or her family (inclusion in the community, return to work for parents) and can avoid significant lifelong disability for the child which translates into an improved economic future as he/she grows to become a contributing member of society.
Thank you for being the difference that you want to see in the world. We are delighted to partner with you and we rejoice in the ripples that you are sending across the globe.
Global Medical and Surgical Teams (GMAST) turned one-year-old on November 30th! That was the day, in 2017, that we formally submitted the paperwork to become a business and then applied for 501(c)(3) status. We received that approval shortly before our trip to Uganda last spring. What a whirlwind year it has been! We have received donations from folks residing in the US, Europe and Australia! We’ve had volunteers travel with us from Alaska, Oregon, Switzerland, New York and South Carolina. Our village is growing indeed.
Our own Liz Wood and Michelle Vessely held #GivingTuesday campaigns on their personal Facebook pages–thank you to their friends and family who gave so generously! And a big thank you to Facebook and Paypal for matching the Tuesday gifts!
Today in Valdese, NC, the Waldensian Presbyterian Church included GMAST in their Alternative Giving Fair. We are feeling the love! Thank you Emily Church for putting this amazing poster together and supporting our cause! If you have an idea for fundraising, please reach out!