By Melody Curtiss, HCW Executive Director
When Mercy Hospital's operating suite opened, Project Cure, through a generous donor, provided a large donation of medical equipment to outfit the new suite. Unfortunately, a surgical table, a very expensive and essential piece of equipment, was not available in Project Cure's warehouse at that time. For the time being, the Mercy surgical team would have to make do without a surgical table.
Missioners Dr. Gary Gilkeson and his wife and HCW board member Mary Ann Gilkeson had connected HCW with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to discuss global health outreach to Africa, and we were stunned and blessed to discover MUSC's enthusiasm, immediate connection to our cause, and their desire to be of assistance. MUSC's Dr. Beth Gray and Dr. Misti Leyva traveled to Sierra Leone with the Gilkesons to collabroate with the Mercy staff. They carried over equipment in their luggage, worked with the medical staff to identify needs they could fulfill, and were planning to return in July 2020 when COVID shut everything down. (You can read more about the Gilkesons and MUSC's involvement in our Summer 2020 Magazine, "Not in my wildest dreams" page 12)
MUSC generously offered to let Kim Nabieu, the Gilkesons, and me roam through their warehouse of surplus medical equipment in Charleston. Miraculously, Kim and Dr. Gilkeson spied a surgical table in the corner of the warehouse. Imagine our delight when MUSC agreed to not only donate the table, but also to store it until it could be shipped, and assist with the crating!
With those matters resolved, we faced a new hurdle. The difficulty was trying to get the bed to Sierra Leone, both in terms of logistics and cost. It took 18 months, miraculous interventions of generous donors to provide for the cost of shipping, and the determination of the Gilkesons, the MUSC staff, and our partner church Bethel UMC, to get the bed from Charleston to Bo. After a year of further delays and complications with the shipping company, HCW's Program Finance Specialist Cynthia Grant (who is also M&E Team Lead and an international negotiation mastermind) was able to team up with Catherine Norman, the UMC Health Coordinator in Sierra Leone, to get the surgical bed to its destination, where it will enable the Mercy surgical staff to perform surgeries and save lives.