The humanitarian programme in Cuba, launched in 2005, adheres to the general philosophy of ECHOES OF HEART, which advocates that it is not enough to provide solely material supplies to people in need. The essential is to act with lucidity and offer infrastructure possibilities and solutions that have the potential to improve the conditions of living of those who suffer on a permanent basis. Our objective is not the temporary relief of their needs but their empowerment to enable them to change their daily lives with their own resources. This programme was an opportunity for many members to experientially observe how energy is transformed into action. The results of this action echo to distant Cuba and the hearts of the people there and return as an ECHO to our hearts here in Greece.
This humanitarian programme, named after the area where it was realized, had as objective the aid to the University Hospital Saturnino Lora and the Diabetics’ Center (Centro De Atención Al Diabetico). In the context of this project, in May 2004 ECHOES OF HEART submitted a relevant proposal to the so-called “YDAS” service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was granted for funding medical equipment at the amount of €50,000.00 on behalf of the Ministry and €16,000.00 on behalf of ECHOES OF HEART. Two trips of volunteers-doctors followed to Cuba, where the delivery of the equipment took place and the debriefing of the results consequently. The Non-Governmental Organization Pharmamundi of Spain stood as valuable assistant and ally to this project by raising awareness and immediate mobilization of all our volunteers-members.
HUMANITARIAN ACTION IN SATURNINO LORA HOSPITAL
The first station of the programme called “Santiago’s Echo” was the Vascular Surgery Section of the University Hospital Saturnino Lora in Santiago de Cuba. The operational deficit of the ultrasound machine in the hospital, as the only available ultrasound machine was out of order, made it impossible for a prompt diagnosis of the condition of patients suffering from severe diseases (ulcers, gangrene, strokes, diabetic vascular disease) and an accurate picture of the extent of the lesions resulting in inability to properly handle and intervene on those illnesses, either for medication or operation purposes. Consequence of failure of accurate diagnosis and prompt intervention was the tragic picture of patients with amputated limbs and infected ulcers, a fact, which imposed our immediate action taking.
Further to the funding approval of the programme from the “YDAS” service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Board of Directors of ECHOES OF HEART decided to provide the initial installment of the financial aid (which amounted to €25,000.00) for the purchase of the much needed portable ultrasound machine for the Vascular Surgery Section of the hospital. A trip followed by our volunteer-doctors to Cuba, where the official delivery of the colored ultrasound machine (worth €30,000.00) took place in the hospital. In this manner, the on-time check up of the patients with severe illnesses finally became a reality. Simultaneously, a 5-day training programme was implemented aiming at the familiarization of the doctors with the new machine and its proper use. To this end, we also provided them with supporting printed informative material and documentation.
Last but not least, a debriefing and results’ evaluation session of the programme took place, which is briefly described in a thanksgiving letter written by the responsible Professor of the Vascular Surgery Section of the University Hospital, Juan Yara:
Thanksgiving letter by the responsible Professor of the Vascular Surgery Section of the University Hospital, Juan Yara:
“…The machine was of extraordinary help to us. Approximately 12 colleagues were trained, out of which 3 are fully responsible for its operation. Approximately 10-12 patients have been examined on a daily basis and until today, we have checked almost 2,500 patients up by using this technique. The machine is safe, portable and highly reliable. It permits us its use in our section as well as in the ER section and intensive care units for urgent cases. Its high efficiency provides us with reliable diagnoses both to our patients and to children with relative vascular diseases and lesions […]. Furthermore, its post-surgery use makes the surgeries more reliable. These are all causes that have altered the results of our diagnoses and surgeries. We are deeply grateful for this valuable help and there are no words to express our gratitude for your generosity. Friends of ECHOES OF HEART, please accept a warm hug from Cuba”.
HUMANITARIAN ACTION IN CENTRO DE ATENCION AL DIABETICO
The second station of the programme in Cuba was the Diabetics’ Center “Centro De Atención Al Diabetico” in Santiago de Cuba. Housed in a small house, it is the only diabetes center in town. However, the tremendous deficits both in education and in basic equipment (like insulin measurement devices, disposable insulin injections of single use, refrigerators for medication storage, e.t.c.) led to failure of proper treatment and illness regularization. Therefore, patients, after the diagnosis of the illness in the center, had no means to check daily and regulate their blood sugar levels. These deficits inevitably led to well-known implications of diabetes, resulting in many patients ending up with vascular lesions (known as diabetic vascular disease) to the Saturnino Lora Hospital. There, the absence of ultrasound machine, as above mentioned, rendered impossible the accurate diagnosis of these lesions leaving no other choice but to proceed to amputation or some sort of vascular surgery based on poor diagnostic capabilities of vascular surgeons.
Under these circumstances, the Board of Directors of ECHOES OF HEART decided to provide aid and support to the center with both medical and educational supplies. This decision was followed by a trip of volunteers-doctors to Cuba, where they visited the center, recorded all needs and informed the responsible persons that they would send assistance in the future. At the same time, some initial operational deficits were covered during the stay of the volunteer-doctors there, namely a refrigerator for medication storage, a washing machine for patients’ and staff’s clothing, chairs and a ventilator were purchased.
The expenditure of a sterilization oven for the tools and the glass injections, approximately 30,000 of insulin injections, 49 insulin measurement devices along with 49 tapes followed. All these were sent via Spain with the collaboration of the Partner Organization Pharmamundi. Moreover, a laptop and a video projector were donated to further aid and support the training equipment.
After the completion of the material expenditure, the director of the center of diabetics, in her thanksgiving letter, provided us with an analytical and comprehensive evaluation of the specific humanitarian aid project. According to her,
Abstract from the letter of the the director of the center of diabetics
“… with the insulin injections, approximately 1,440 patients will be helped within the following 3 years, as 40 patients will be using approximately 800 injections on a monthly basis. At the same time, the insulin measurement devices will cover a period of 3 to 5 years, depending on their use, and the insulin tapes will cover our needs for a period of one year. Furthermore, the educational level of our patients will be improved, while the refrigerator and the sterilization oven will permit the maintenance, control and sterilization procedure of our medical supplies providing autonomy to our Center…”.
Her letter finishes with a warm thank you expressed by the staff employed there and patients to the ECHOES OF HEART members.