AAMI News July 2017

'Biomeds Without Borders' Delivers Life-Saving Equipment

Biomeds Without Borders
Pat Lynch (front left) and the other volunteers were treated to a traditional breakfast by hospital staff on their last day.

Patrick Lynch, CBET, CCE, CHTM, has more than 40 years of experience in the healthcare technology management field and is the “chief problem solver” for Lynch Problem Solving & Consulting. He is the administrator of Biomeds Without Borders and has participated in numerous international trips with the nonprofit organization.

Earlier this year, I made a trip with a team of three other volunteers from Biomeds Without Borders—William Rivera, Robert Hijazi, and Victor Azurdia—to the town of Escuintla in southern Guatemala to install medical equipment in a new 36-bed combined neonatal (NICU) and pediatric intensive care unit (PICU)—the largest ever in that country. We were charged with outfitting the unit with bedside monitors, ventilators, incubators, and other donated equipment.

The predominant use of motorcycles for personal transportation in this region and the lack of helmet use mean the hospital sees many young children every year with traumatic head injuries. Before the installation of this unit, the hospital had just two monitors that could monitor invasive pressure, making it impossible to monitor every baby or child who needed it. The new unit, along with the dual pressure capabilities of the new monitors, will help a lot.

When we arrived at the hospital in Escuintla, we were shown to a partially completed room on the third floor. It was divided in half with each side being a mirror image of the other. One side would be the NICU and the other, the PICU. Each side also had a smaller isolation room built into it.

That first day, there were no medical gases, vacuums, or flooring. The air conditioning was not running because they had just painted the day before, and we were issued masks to reduce the effects of the paint fumes.

After unloading pallets of donated equipment, tools, power cords, miscellaneous cables, assorted hardware, and an array of maintenance supplies, our first task was to install GCX wall mounts for the 36 Spacelabs monitors that were donated by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. We worked with the physicians to select the optimum location for the monitor mounts. We had to take into account that the average person in Guatemala is much shorter than the average American. It is very common to find nurses who are less than 4'9" tall.

The next day, we taught the residents how to test the monitors by having them hook up all of the cables, power up the units, and perform a functional test. We also began unpacking the many infant warmers, infant incubators, and ventilators that were shipped, as well as many adult patient beds. Each of the 36 patient spaces was to receive either a warmer, crib, incubator, or bed. About half of them were to be equipped with ventilators.

Testing these units, we began to find problems. For example, several of the corners of the infant warmers were brittle and had either been cracked or broken. One infant warmer had a digital display issue. To repair them, we used a healthy amount of epoxy and left them to cure overnight. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. The next morning, the warmers were fully functional.

On our last morning at the hospital, the pediatrics staff insisted on having a breakfast in our honor. They prepared local dishes and traditional drinks. It was quite an affair, and at the end, we were all presented with personalized gifts thanking us for our service, encouraging us to return often, and reminding us of the tremendous difference we had made to the health of the citizens of the Escuintla area. There were many hugs, pictures, and more than a few misty eyes.

We left proud that we were able to be a part of a larger effort to help trained medical staff in Guatemala not to have to choose which injured babies would live and which would die because there was not enough equipment to treat them all. In five years, nobody in Guatemala may remember our names, or even what we did, but we will always carry these good deeds with us.

We hope that you might consider becoming a part of our next adventure, either by traveling with us or by donating biomedical tools, equipment, or even a few dollars. The need is great, and we waste so much here in the United States. Also, if you are planning a trip of your own and need tools, test equipment, or even a thumb drive with gigabytes of service manuals, contact me at patrick@plynch.us. I will gladly help set you up.