24 Jan Unused medical supplies find purpose
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel |A semitrailer truck-sized container is headed to Africa Monday, filled with more than 1,000 ventilators, sterile gauze packs, tubes and other medical supplies that were collected in the Milwaukee area.
It took two years of planning, four storage facilities, several spreadsheets that tracked every last surgical glove, and lots of prayer, organizers said.
Leading the effort were Scott and Sharon Karstenson, health care professionals who met at Eastbrook Church and spent their honeymoon six years ago on a medical mission trip to India – one of many such trips they would take.
“So much of this would get discarded, and it’s usable – very usable,” Sharon Karstenson, a nurse, said on Saturday, the second day of a three-day struggle in bitter cold to load the 40-foot container parked in Eastbrook’s back lot.
U.S. hospitals discard more than 2 million tons of medical waste each year, a portion of which is unused, surplus medical supplies, according to Healthcare Without Harm.
Scott Karstenson began collecting some of that – ultrasound machines, laser knives, whatever they would give him – about 10 years ago after attending a church session about medical needs in India.
A respiratory therapist, Scott Karstenson saw hospital waste firsthand. Sterile gauze packs, for example, are tossed after the expiration date even though they’re perfectly usable, he said.
More than 30 volunteers helped the Karstensons haul the stored supplies and load them. Helpers included Marquette University’s golf team and a Mayo Clinic group that brought sheets, gowns and other offerings.
The Karstensons raised about $10,000 to cover the costs of the container and shipping, which could take as long as three months.
The container will go to a looted hospital in an eastern African country, which the Karstensons aren’t naming for fear thieves might target it upon arrival.
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