Doing Something For Others Less Forunate - by Katherine Lesperance, BA, RRT
Reprint from "ADVANCE" for Respiratory Care Practitioners, November 13, 2000

Andrew Schneider, RRT, feels blessed as an individual. He believes he has been given so much in his lifetime that he wants to give back to those who don't have as much.


"It is always wonderful to know that as a person and as an RT I can do something to help someone else," he said. "We are in a helping profession, but I'm not sure everyone is aware of all the help that can be given throughout the world."

As director of the Cardiopulmonary Department at Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, N.H., Schneider runs a small respiratory care department which delivers quality respiratory care to patients in the Northeast; but he is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Worldwide Medical Support Charity.

Worldwide collects surplus medical supplies, equipment and medical texts for redistribution in Central and South America. Schneider said Worldwide differs distinctively from other organizations donating medical supplies to foreign countries.

"The problem is that most of these countries are backward and there is no medical education to speak of," he said. "Few know how to troubleshoot the equipment, and few are educated to do so. This is something we want to correct."


Consequently, Schneider's organization seeks to send trained individuals to foreign lands along with donated medical equipment. The medically trained individuals understand the equipment and can educate those on the receiving end how to troubleshoot and make decisions about the use of the equipment.

"The focus is not just to drop all this stuff off, but to give support," said Schneider. "People who have been there will tell you what America has is for more than what some of these regions can even imagine. Anyone with any desire could be of help."

Schneider had wondered how he could get involved in promoting a plan to distribute used medical equipment to other nations, and he found this answer at a state respiratory care meeting. Laughing, Schneider admitted, "You just never know where you will find your direction."

Sparking this interest was an RT who had gone to Honduras. "There were doctors and nurses who had a particular direction," Schneider said. It turned out the RT had an opportunity to work as a triage person, and it was the best experience of this life.

The RT also discussed supplies that were in very short order. Care givers abroad needed intubation equipment, cannulas and masks, "all kinds of things we take for granted," said Schneider.


He began investigating, and discovered many companies and hospitals were more than willing to donate equipment. The problem lay in their reluctance to do so unless they could claim a tax deduction.

Worldwide was set up as a non-profit charity -- like a charity. And its mission is devoted to helping other nations. Nations needing help the most are Guatemala and Colombia. "We want them to receive the medical supplies and education they need," said Schneider.

Both nations are involved in discussions with physicians and organizations in a quest to improve health care. Schneider is hopeful his organization will become a part of a long-range solution. "We want to go down to those nations and educate the population. Without that education, the equipment that is donated will eventually be useless," he said. "We can prevent this by sending qualified people down there to train them."

Classifying his charity as a grass-roots movement, Schneider said he is in the beginning stages of accomplishing his goals. While hospitals and medical companies are now more than willing to donate equipment to a non-profit charity, he still needs monetary contributions.

"We are applying for grants, writing letters to other charity's and contacting other national charitable organizations," he said. "We aren't going to give up easily, because we know what we are doing is the right thing."


At the moment, the Worldwide Medical Support Charity Board consists of five people: Schneider and his wife, who is a medical records director; another RT; a nurse; and Schneider's brother who is well versed in business affairs.

"We are accepting any kind of donations and assistance at this pint, and we are also looking for hospitals who are interested in trading up equipment, such as old ABG machines, pulse oximeters or ventilators still in good working order," noted Schneider.

Worldwide is hoping to send qualified volunteer medical personnel to the needy nations soon. "People who go will have to be committed," he said. Volunteers will spend a lot of time training people to use and maintain the equipment. Target populations include people in rural, isolated outreach areas where any kind of professional help is desperately needed.

No unsolicited equipment will be sent. Physicians working the various countries ask for what they need. From there, Worldwide sends equipment, medical text books and training manuals.

"I really appreciate the responses I am getting," Schneider said. "This is an important way for respiratory therapists to give back. We all have so much in this country, and there are so many places that do no. We need to remember this."

Andrew Schneider can be contacted at the Worldwide Medical Support Charity

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