Medical gifts, from Vail to Uganda
September 26, 2012
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – One man’s treasure is another man’s trash – so the saying goes. Not that the X-ray machine was really trash; it had helped countless patients over the years. But as Vail Valley Medical Center upgraded the machine to newer digital technology in 2007, this machine, now considered “end of life,” had no home.
However, Vail Valley Medical Center’s director of imaging, Giselle Riden, had a better idea. She knew of a place where it would indeed become a treasure: Uganda.
In August, Mountains of the Moon University’s new Health Sciences Center, run by ChristAid, opened in Fort Portal, Uganda – with the X-ray machine proudly ensconced after a practically epic journey. Also last month, a medical center run by ChristAid partner Touch-The-World opened its own brand new clinic in Gulu, Uganda. It, too, has a former Vail Valley Medical Center machine.
When the former machine was upgraded, Riden was told to find a good home for the machine. And it wasn’t just the X-ray machine; the Vail Valley Medical Center also had what Americans would deem outdated medical items – scopes, exam tables, an old surgery table and sinks.
“No one locally needed the equipment,” she said.
So Riden went to ChristAid, an organization dedicated to aiding the elderly women and children of Uganda. Her church, Gracious Savior Lutheran in Edwards, has a standing relationship with the aid organization and assisted with the donation.
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ChristAid’s founder and executive country director of Uganda, David Mporampora, remembers the day he received a call about the X-ray machine.
“I got an amazing call from my very dear sister in Christ and friend of Uganda’s poor,” Mporampora said.
Mporampora, who isn’t a stranger to war and struggle, survived the torture and persecution under the reign of Idi Amin in Uganda.
“Over and over, Gisele had heard how we needed medical equipment to help thousands of people who have no basic health care and are dying from very simple, preventable diseases,” he said.
He explained how the equipment in war-devastated Uganda is old, dilapidated and unhygienic, and the only X-ray machine in the region works only on and off. Residents, he says, are consequently dying because of poor diagnoses, physicians who are forced to guess (often inaccurately) what to prescribe, and sham doctors are setting up illegal clinics everywhere.
“If you are not rich enough to go to the big city (250 miles away), you are left with only two choices: a miracle or dying … most just die,” Mporampora said.
“This donation from the Vail Valley Medical Center comes at a very critical time and need,” Mporampora said. “It was such an amazing time for me to see so much kindness from the Vail medical community, David Bannister and my long time friend of Uganda’s poor, Pastor Dan Rohlwing (of Gracious Savior in Edwards).”
Getting the X-ray machine to Uganda wasn’t easy or cheap. It took four long years before the 40-foot container was filled – and financed. Gracious Savior volunteers teamed up with Vail Valley Medical Center employees to help pack the machine and equipment for shipment to Denver, where it sat in a warehouse. David Bannister of Medical Imaging Technology, the engineer who had serviced the machine and continues to service Vail Valley Medical Center’s imaging equipment, donated his time to disassemble the X-ray machine, help crate it – then planned to travel to Uganda to reassemble it. Financing to ship the container finally fell into place when ChristAid partner, Touch-The-World, a Christian group based out of New Jersey, aided by Fort Collins members, Dennis and Susan Templar, stepped in. Finally, this past April, the X-ray machine was on its way to Uganda.
By this time, Vail Valley Medical Center had a second X-ray machine to donate – a mammogram unit from 1992 which was replaced by digital technology as well.
“We are thrilled to donate machines that helped so many of our patients and will touch the lives of many more patients through renewed service in Uganda,” said Doris Kirchner, president and CEO of Vail Valley Medical Center.
Touch-The-Word’s new medical center in Gulu, Uganda, was the recipient, not only of the mammogram unit, but of many of the other medical supplies. Jesse Kroeze, director of the Gulu medical center, said he and his wife came to Uganda because they were moved by the level of need and the lack of assistance. They teamed up with the war-ravaged population of Adak in Northern Uganda to help improve their lives, including their overwhelming health care needs. Kroeze points out that there are still people dying in the most remote parts of the world that will never be able to enter an emergency room. Local health centers are poorly equipped with medicine and services to deal with a population of 3,000 afflicted with HIV/AIDS, burns, infections, worms and malari
“I cannot express fully to a Westerner the extent of what this equipment will mean to them,” Kroeze said. “The people of Adak extend their deepest thanks to the Vail Valley Medical Center for their generosity and concern, and also thanks for offering a new life and hope to Adak, Uganda.”
“It is going to be a great moment in the medical history of this region,” Mporampora said days before Mountains of the Moon University Health Sciences Center opened. “The opening of their new Health Sciences Center means we can now train nurses and midwives of integrity and accountability to the community, and they will have official and legal medical credentials,” Mporampora said. “On behalf of thousands of prospective beneficiaries, we say thank you beyond the choicest words from any dictionary.”
Local freelance writer Connie Steiert was commissioned to write this story for the Vail Valley Medical Center.