Global Links is going Fragrance Free

Environmental stewardship is one of our guiding principles at Global Links, and has been since our inception 25 years ago. This year we have taken one more step to help protect our environment and the health of our employees, volunteers, and visitors – Global Links is going Fragrance Free.

It might come as a surprise to many of you that the ingredient “fragrance” that is found in numerous personal care, household, and cleaning products can refer to any number of 3,100 different chemicals. Most of these chemicals have never been tested for safety or health measures. Of the ones that have been tested, most of the chemicals are toxic chemicals, carcinogens, allergens, or are endocrine disruptors.

These toxic substances can cause wheezing, increased asthma symptoms, headaches or migraines, difficulty breathing, difficulty concentrating, allergic reactions, dermatological reactions including eczema outbreaks, neurological issues, or create an increased risk of cancer. The chemicals that have been identified as endocrine disruptors can cause developmental, fertility, and reproductive problems in men and women.

Aside from being harmful to humans, many of the ingredients are man-made chemicals created from coal and petroleum. This puts an increased strain on our limited natural resources to create chemicals that have proven more toxic than helpful. Some water treatment facilities are not able to filter out the chemicals so the toxic ingredients are being detected in waterways which can cause further damage to plant, animal and human life.

So what is Global Links doing?
We have instituted a Fragrance-Free Policy for our headquarters in Green Tree. Our office and all spaces used by staff and visitors will remain free of scented products. Air fresheners are prohibited from our facilities as well as any cleaning products that contain the ingredient “fragrance.” We are also encouraging all employees, volunteers, and visitors to avoid the use of personal care products that contain fragrances while they are at Global Links. These personal care products include cologne, perfume, aftershave lotions, scented lotions, fragranced hair products, or similar products. We are asking this of our staff and visitors because while you may not react to fragrances in products, several of our staff members and volunteers do react negatively to these ingredients. We want to promote a safe and healthy environment for everyone who walks through our doors.

What can you do?
If you are planning to visit Global Links please be considerate of the scented products you choose to use that day. You can read the labels on personal care products to learn what ingredients are contained in that item.

An example of results from the EWG Guide.

An example of results from the EWG Guide.

If you are concerned about the products you use and want to find healthier alternatives, there are a few sites that can help you. EWG’s Skin Deep Database and the Good Guide are both websites that let you search for personal care or household products to see a list of ingredients and health concerns associated with those ingredients. Both sites also have a mobile app with a barcode scanner to help you while you’re out shopping. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Women’s Voices for the Earth, and Women for a Healthy Environment are three more resources that provide information on fragrance and toxic chemicals in the products you use daily.

Reduce Waste. Save Lives. Join Global Links Suture Donation Program.

Surplus sutures. Every hospital has them. Maybe they were pulled for a procedure that was cancelled. Maybe the surgeon prefers a different needle, and boxes of absorbable gut on a cutter aren’t being used.

Those surplus sutures can save lives all over the world – Africa, Asia, South America – if they are donated to Global Links. Our suture donation program has, since 1989, been recovering sterile, current-dated sutures from hospitals around the country and providing them to hospitals in resource-poor communities worldwide that desperately need them.

Every donation makes a difference for someone – such as Saanvi*, who came to Miraj Heart Institute in India at age 5 with a congenital hole in her heart. Her uncle had had a successful cardiac repair at Miraj, and convinced Saanvi’s parents, who are both hearing impaired, to bring their daughter to Miraj.Miraj girl in ICU - cropped

Sutures donated by Global Links were essential in defraying the very high costs of Saanvi’s procedure. “Cardiac suture is a very important and fairly costly ingredient of the operation,” writes Dr. Shirish Pargaonkar, chief of cardio-vascular and thoracic surgery and the head of Miraj Heart Institute. “Our average cost of suture per open heart surgery varies from $250 to $500 depending on the type of surgery. However these continued donations of valuable sutures from Global Links help to keep our operative costs low.”

Global Links has been providing select cardiac sutures to Miraj since 2007.  “The humanitarian efforts of Global Links and their staff have made it possible for us to subsidize our costs still further and offer our services to many more patients,” writes Dr. Pargaonkar.  “Our small effort in Miraj largely depends on the prayers, equipment and financial support that we receive through friends and well-wishers like your good self. We once again thank Global Links for their continued help and support which empowers us to carry out this service.”

Your hospital can support this effort by sending current-dated sutures to Global Links. Reduce waste, clear some shelf space, and save lives. Win. Win. Win.

Saanvi, fully recovered, with Dr. Shirish Pargaonkar, her family and members of the ICU team who helped in her care.

Saanvi, fully recovered, with Dr. Shirish Pargaonkar, her family and members of the ICU team who helped in her care.

To learn more about the program, email the suture program manager. To learn how to make a donation of sutures, email the medical outreach manager.

Want to read more stories about successful surgeries with sutures from Global Links? Click here.

*not her real name

A Hero in Uganda

Last week was a tough one. The news from around the world is enough to make us all despair, but the work we do at Global Links, and the people we work with, keep us going.

Consider, for example, the success of Bright Kids Uganda, created by the love and determination of one woman “to rescue vulnerable and economically disadvantaged children from their dire circumstances in which they are currently living.” Victoria Nalongo Namusisi began the home in 2000 to help children whose lives were devastated by Uganda’s years of internal conflict. Motivated to alleviate the suffering she saw on the streets of Entebbe as well as in the north, she found enough support from within and outside the community to make the home a reality.

The home, school and clinic are a work in progress, with every triumph, large and small, celebrated.  A new van, a successful fundraiser, one resident graduating from high school while another enjoys cake on his third birthday are all lovingly documented on the organization’s website.

Since 2012, Global Links has been supporting the Bright Kids Uganda medical clinic with donations of supplies and equipment. Blood pressure cuffs, IV poles, tongue depressors, gauze and gloves play a role in improving the lives of the children of all ages who find their way to Victoria. “Your medical supplies were greatly appreciated and instantly used by all of the [visiting] doctors,” wrote Pauline Greenlick, Special Education Consultant and Treasurer for Bright Kids Uganda, U.S.A.

Knowing that there are children in Uganda whose lives are secure and stable, who receive the care and schooling they need to thrive, helps us move beyond the tragedies documented in the daily news. We are so proud to work with heroes like Victoria.


Taking BP with GL supplies

Medical supplies from Global Links were put into immediate use.

GL tongue depressor shows importance of basic supplies

Materials for a basic exam, such as a tongue depressor, can be difficult to find in resource-poor communities.

Doin’ the Happy Dance

“You must understand,” says program officer Marisol Valentin, her eyes lighting up, “the importance of Carnaval. Everybody wants to go.”

Marisol was talking to volunteers about a project with Haiti’s Bureau du Secrétaire d’Etat à l’Intégration des Personnes Handicapées (BSEIPH), a government agency dedicated to helping citizens dependent on mobility devices integrate fully into the life of the community. Global Links has been collecting walkers, crutches, canes and wheelchairs from hospitals as well as the Pittsburgh community and sending them to this agency, which works to provide access to education and vocational training, and advocates for the legal framework and physical infrastructure those with disabilities require.

Many of the volunteers Marisol was speaking to had already been involved in this project in some way, because the wheelchairs, walkers and other devices were all cleaned and prepped by volunteers. Working on such items as pediatric standers, says volunteer Chris Meyers, is “what keeps you going.”

One of the benefits of our work with BSEIPH is that it supports a Haitian government agency already in place. BSEIPH knows the community and has the necessary networks and expertise. Supporting public health initiatives such as this one is a priority for Global Links, and makes a lasting positive impact on life in Haiti.

The focus of this project isn’t on the materials – it’s on what those devices allow community members to do. Current estimates from such sources as Caribbean Journal say that about 10% of the Haitian population suffers from some sort of disability, due in large part to the devastating earthquake of January 2010. With a population of 10.17 million, that’s over one million people.

And, probably, many of them want to enjoy Carnaval, an annual period leading up to Lent that is defined by fun, feasting, and no-holds-barred dancing. After receiving a donation of mobility devices from Global Links, BSEIPH made them available to their constituents, and then went to Carnaval with a camera.

Dancing at Carnaval National des Gonaives

Dancing at Carnaval National des Gonaives

It is hard to see on a still photo, but this man is dancing.

Global Links has just sent another enormous donation of mobility devices – a 40-foot container packed full – to BSEIPH. While not all of the people who receive them will dance, they will be more likely to go to work, to take their children to school or to medical appointments. They will be able to take part in the life of their community. And that, as we say here at Global Links, calls for a happy dance.

Hit the link for a video of “Andikape yo nan Kanaval,” an initiative of BSEIPH that features artists with and without disabilities, and dance along.

Want to help? Donate now to this project.

Having the Right Sutures Means the Difference between Life and Death

Mari Clide was 25 years old and pregnant for the first time – with twins. One night she awoke with a severe headache, which she knew could be a sign of pre­eclampsia. This life-threatening condition, pregnancy-induced hypertension, increases the mother’s risk for stroke and seizure, and increases the risk for prematurity and stillbirth in infants. Mari Clide’s condition was further complicated by the fact that she lives in a rural area of Haiti, far from the medical help she needed. Mari Clide called a motorcycle taxi and rode one hour on rough roads to get to the only hospital for miles that could help her: Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS).

Mari Clide with her healthy new babies.

Mari Clide with her healthy new babies.

HAS serves a population of about 350,000 people in a 610-square-mile area (roughly the size of Houston), and has been receiving sutures and other materials from Global Links since 1995.  Renowned throughout Haiti for high-risk obstetric services, the hospital’s maternity ward relies not only on the expert medical staff but also on the availability of materials — including sutures.  Of the roughly 1,000 deliveries attended annually at the hospital, over 30% are delivered by Cesarean section due to complications. Having the correct sutures on hand at the right time could mean the difference between life and death for mothers and babies.

After Mari Clide’s rough ride to the hospital, her blood pressure was monitored closely. On her second day, she went into spontaneous labor. After many hours, however, her labor stopped progressing and her doctor decided a Cesarean section was necessary to avoid risk of neurologic injury for her twins, stillbirth, infection, hemorrhage, fistula formation, and even death. Mari Clide’s C-section was successful and uncomplicated, in part because the hospital had exactly the right sutures for her procedure from Global Links.

Mari Clide stayed in the hospital for several days to ensure her safe recovery. “Everything was so good here, I really appreciate the service that I received,” said the proud new mother. After her doctor deemed it safe, Mari Clide and her new twins, Roodensly and Roodensky, returned home to start their lives together.

We are proud of our long partnership with HAS, which has been providing excellent medical care to the Lower Artibonite Valley for nearly 60 years. Please join us in helping mothers and babies begin their new lives together in good health – become a suture donor or a financial supporter of this life-saving program.

Global Links Donations Protecting Irreplaceable “Resources” in Cuba

“The Health Care Worker Kits you sent us were invaluable,” said the Provincial Vice-Director of the Ministry of Health in Santiago de Cuba at the closing meeting of Global Links’ site evaluation visit. For four days, Global Links staff visited hospitals affected by Hurricane Sandy, evaluating the impact of our support and assessing potential projects. At each hospital, the staff would thank us for the support we had provided and mention the Health Care Worker Kits as one of the key items they appreciated receiving.  “Yes.” I responded to the Vice-Director,  “Everyone we spoke to highlighted those kits.”  The Vice-Director sat down, took off her glasses and quietly responded “They were very valuable; allow me to share my personal story.”

Hurricane Sandy was the strongest Hurricane to impact Santiago de Cuba.  A category 2 hurricane, Sandy entered Santiago with winds of up to 220 km per hour, tidal waves of 9 to 10 meters and hours upon hours of rain.  The difficult task of cleanup and rebuilding started immediately after the storm had cleared, but the magnitude of damage to the local infrastructure led to a rise in infectious diseases in the area.  Cholera, brought back to the Caribbean region through poor sanitary conditions at humanitarian response camps following the 2010 Haitian earthquake, is now one of the epidemiological risks following any disaster in the region. For months after Hurricane Sandy, healthcare workers in Santiago de Cuba canvassed the communities in the province identifying at-risk individuals and transporting patients with cholera to one of the main hospitals for treatment.

“We were at the point where we felt the situation was under control, and we were providing educational visits to the community about basic hygiene to prevent cholera.” explained the Vice-Director.  “We were visiting a community in the Sierras – the mountains – when a young doctor stopped at the home of an elderly man whom the neighbors believed was suffering from cholera.”  There was only one problem: the doctor had no protective gear with her.  They stood outside the house pondering possibilities that would allow the doctor to enter the house without putting her life at risk.  Did they assess the situation from the outside, go to the closest hospital for the protective gear and then come back?  But this was an area of difficult access, so it would be hours before they could come back and cholera patients cannot spare hours.  Then the Vice-Director remembered that she had one of the Health Worker kits we had sent in the trunk of her car. She was able to give the doctor a gown, gloves, and face mask, enabling the doctor to care for the patient with minimal risk to herself.

Gloves from Global Links protect health care workers

Washing slides – a potential biohazard – wearing gloves from Global Links.

When we think about medical resources, we sometimes forget to include personnel – and yet of all the resources, they are the most precious.  This was brought home to me several times on my recent trip to Cuba. I also saw a lab technician washing microscope slides, a potential biohazard, thankfully wearing gloves from Global Links. Reusing single-use materials is common in the countries where we work and I was glad to see the staff taking precautions to protect themselves.

The health care worker kits were donated to Global Links by a local corporation who had them as preventive measures for a season in which H1N1 was on the rise.  Thankfully, there was no pandemic in Pittsburgh and the surplus materials served their purpose protecting Cuban Health care workers battling cholera.

Our project to help Santiago de Cuba recover and rebuild from Hurricane Sandy is now in phase two.   In 2014 and 2015, Global Links will be working on strengthening their ORs with anesthesia machines and surgical beds, their patient wards with beds and mattresses, their laboratories with microscopes and testing equipment. And as we worked during that closing meeting on the list of consumable supplies to prioritize during this phase, the Vice-Director smiled and said “And don’t forget to send more Healthcare Worker Kits.”

Essential health care worker kits.

Preparing to pack those essential health care worker kits.

Today my inbox has been flooded with e-mail alerts with titles like “MERS Cases Pose Threat to Health Care Workers” as the US deals with its first cases of MERS brought back by health care workers returning from Saudi Arabia.  So I find myself thinking about the young doctor I never met, feeling glad that materials from Global Links not only help the patients, they protect the irreplaceable and dedicated doctors and nurses who care for them, and grateful for our partners who help us in our mission of sharing surplus and saving lives.

Please consider becoming a Global Giver in support of our program in Cuba and the patients, doctors and nurses who depend on us.