Knowing she didn’t have sutures, a volunteer doctor in a remote village in Africa made the difficult decision to perform an emergency c-section to save a woman’s life and the life of her unborn child. How did the physician close the woman’s incision without surgical thread? She had gauze pads and used individual threads from the woven gauze as sutures. This is just one of many shocking and unthinkable stories we heard this week from the staff at AFYA, a charity based in Yonkers, NY. A lack of fundamental medical supplies and equipment in underserved communities is a global problem and AFYA is on a mission to rescue and distribute medical supplies around the world.
I learned about AFYA a few years ago, and since then I’ve dropped off a variety of my clients’ used and unused medical supplies (wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, insulin, first aid supplies, bed chucks, adult undergarments, etc.). Since January is GO Month (Get Organized) in my industry, each year my local NAPO members and I participate in a special initiative; we donate our time and expertise to a local not-for-profit agency*. This year we chose AFYA, and this past Wednesday morning, nine of my professional organizing colleagues and I spent the morning counting, sorting, and packaging medical supplies to be donated.
We were fortunate to meet the Founder and Executive Director of AFYA, Danielle Butin. She told us the heart-wrenching story behind why she started the foundation, and then toured us around one level of AFYA’s vast warehouse. She was eager to pick our collective “organized” brains for suggestions of how to streamline her processes and/or improve storage. It was awe-inspiring and intimidating to see rows and rows of shelving units and stacks upon stacks of boxes filled with medical supplies. Then there was a zone dedicated to medical equipment such as incubators, crash carts, etc. While a small group of us promised to return to AFYA in the near future and consult with Danielle on her procedures, we already know she’s doing something right!
Are you aware of a US law that requires hospitals and medical facilities to dispose of all unused and unopened medical supplies set aside for a patient either in an operating room or a hospital room? In other words, new medical supplies such as bandages, needles, tubes, masks, gauze pads and so on are routinely put into landfills rather than distributed to others in need. What a horrible, useless (literally) waste! Danielle appealed to local hospitals and arranged for these supplies to be given to AFYA instead of being thrown out. To date, AFYA has rescued and recovered medical supplies and has sent them to over 70 countries worldwide. AMAZING! But there’s always more to do.
How can you help? Other than volunteering in the warehouse, donating supplies or money, you can help by going on vacation! There’s a phenomenal program called AFYA LUGGAGE FOR LIFE that packages essential medical supplies in a bright orange duffel bag for you to transport on your flight to drop off to a local clinic or facility at your vacation destination. Learn more about AFYA LUGGAGE FOR LIFE here.
*Previous Go-Month charities: