Breathe Life Into Africa
Organized by: Francisco Cruz
For the nickel version of this read paragraphs one and two. If you are brave read the whole thing. You might enjoy it. Let me know either way.
Have you ever seen something on the TV and said, "How neat!", "I wish I could do that.", "If I didn't have so much going on I would love to go abroad and do something that really matters." Well that is me. I live in a suburb of Seattle called Federal Way, WA. Three years ago that type of opportunity met me in 3D, in the form of Dr. Steven Sparks. Dr. Sparks is the former head of Vascular Surgery at the University of California San Diego. He is currently operating as a missionary surgical team member and directs the surgical residency program at Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Bamenda, Cameroon.
There is a need to raise money for the purchase of an Oxygen Concentration Machine that will bottle oxygen for 7 hospitals and 27 clinics. The lead facility in this effort is Mbingo Baptist Hospital The likely impact of this purchase coupled with a few others detailed below is conservatively estimated by a doctor, (Dr. Steve Sparks) who has been in country for over 7 years, of saving the lives of 4 people per day. It is my hope to fund this campaign through crowdrise. I hope you will agree
I would like to preface this by saying that I am not asking for donations without, "proverbial skin in the game". My wife Pia and I have procured equipment in the form of 3 surgical tables and one transport ventilator at a cost of $3200.00. The retail cost of this equipment is much greater (over 30,000 dollars). However thanks to our government treating these pieces of durable medical equipment as if they are gallons of milk that spoil, you can get them for pennies on the dollar. We are committed to procuring 9 more transport ventilators at an approximate cost of $12,400.00. Additionally we have prefunded an account with $5,000 dollars towards the purchase of the oxygen concentrator you will read about later. This is mentioned in the spirit of transparency and to show that we are involved in more than just asking for support.
The surgical tables have increased the hospitals operating capacity by 22%. One table replaced an existing wonky one and the other two filled rooms that had no table in them. HOWEVER, the transport ventilators are effectively high end paperweights without an oxygen concentrator and bottling device. That is where YOU come in.
This is what one might call a Healing and Happiness IPO (Intentional and Purposeful Offering). What is being offered is shares in the joy that comes from helping your fellow man.
A bit about Dr. Sparks, a humble man who is not a self promoter.
Dr. Sparks was a commercial fisherman who was making in excess of $100,000 at age 19. He had a crisis of conscience and while explaining his testimony at our church intimated that he contemplated suicide. He told God that he would give him his life because if the life he was living was all there was to life he simply wanted to check out.
As previously mentioned he attended university, medical school and became a vascular surgeon.
In 2002 he had an accident that severed many of the fingers on a hand. You can read about how they saved his hand here.
About 8 years ago Dr. Sparks felt a call to go to Africa. He thought that with his professional acquaintances he could raise funds and work on an idea that would be impactful. He is humble, straightforward, and matter of fact. He is also a very can do individual.
He worked to get funding and contined to work and work and work. It was an abject failure. Only when he gave up did a door open. He worked at a free clinic in San Diego once a month and met a man who came in and said, "So I hear my favorite doctor is heading to Africa." to which he responded that he'd given up because it must not have been God's will that he go.
The man was Jewish and asked him if Steve was planning on serving any and all. Steve indicated that was the case. Astonishingly, the man offered to donate $200,000 to Dr. Sparks. He only came to the free clinic (and paid for treatment there) because he owned the building and several others adjacent to it.
Shortly thereafter the initial capital outlay was fully funded. It was $300,000. Think about what we spend in the United States on projects and buildings. This money rehabilitated the entire facility to make it run and serve Bamenda as well as the entire nation of Cameroon as its primary referral hospital.
Over the past six years Dr. Sparks has headed a surgical residency program at Mbingo Baptist Hospital where people are being trained in many types of surgery that simply are not available in Africa. Many doctors the world over come to teach and many of the residents once trained will go to some of the toughest medical landscapes on earth to practice.
The ratio of inhabitants of citizens to doctors in the United States is 390:1. In Cameroon it is 5300:1. In many parts of Africa it exceeds 10000:1 and in a few countries it is literally 50,000 people to 1 doctor.
In December Dr. Sparks came to our church to provide a report on goings on at Mbingo. His primary request was prayer. I had met him 3 years prior and that was the same primary request he'd made back then.
Pia and I were lucky enough to host him for the one night he stayed. He has children going to college and earns $1,324 monthly through Converge Worldwide, an organization that facilitates missionary work.
He gave his testimony and afterwards the missions committee had lunch with him. There he indicated that he had two specific needs. Surgical tables and transport ventilators. He needed two surgical tables and 10 transport ventilators and mentioned the need for a large scale oxygen concentration and bottling machine..
The current issue at hand is bottling the oxygen. Today they are literally using a small oxygen concentrator that concentrates oxygen into a Hefty garbage bag. When lives are in the balance, people focus on the practical as opposed to the potential liability of performing surgery with garbage bags as a critical component of the work.
The transport ventilators are literally useless without the oxygen bottles. The ventilators serve to regulate oxygen to those being transported. AirSep is an industry leader in creating wholly integrated oxygen concentration equipment. They have modular units that make it easier to maintain them in case of a parts failure. We are going to procure ten ventilators on faith that someone will help us with funding the $100,000 dollars it takes to procure the oxygen concentration unit.
The tables and ventilator have been delivered. The table are in use and the lone transport ventilator sits waiting for the AirSep unit.
The unit will bottle oxygen for 7 hospitals and 27 clinics.
My Original Idea
Originally I thought lets go to the people who have the means and attempted to contact them for support in this endeavor. I am faithful that the finish line will be reached but so far the race seems very long. After two years of trying with people I have met, like the former CEO of a major airline, the current CEO of a major shipping company, a few investment bankers and tweeting hundreds of celebrities. I decided maybe I need to find someone from Cameroon who understands the need and the impact. I am not a professional fundraiser nor do I run a non profit. I am an average person who has seen what an above average person can do in Dr. Sparks. Pursuing a Cameroonian also causes problems because of tribalism and what are the perceived motives of the Cameroonians who were supporting the cause.
So then I just tried athletes. Trying to find 100 people to donate $1,000 dollars to purchase the AirSep 600N Oxygen Concentrator.
I named the cause The 100/1000 Athletes for Africa Challenge. So far a couple of athletes have indicated they will support this with memorabilia. That takes time and an event. We are literally talking life and death here. I thought, I was an athlete. I played little league baseball and with that thought started saving money. Are you an athlete current or former? Any amount donated is respected and appreciated. It takes every grain of sand to make a beach.
Here are some things Dr. Sparks mentioned about this device and its importance as well as some of the goings on related with the surgical residency and training program.
The hospital has 6 fully trained and deployed surgeons with 9 more on tap through 2018. These surgeons undergo rigorous training and learn to do surgeries that simply are not performed in Africa with the frequency you'd expect due to a lack of training. These doctors currently are and/or will upon graduation serve in Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia.
In a separate email related to the AirSep he indicated just what the reality of the situation is in Cameroon and sadly throughout Africa.
“Here is the machine I am looking at. There is a four bottle machine or a 10 bottle. We would prefer the 10bottle/day unit. It is a complete unit on a skid so all you do is apply power. If a portion of the unit needs servicing. You take of that part and send it back to the States. AIRSEP is the company that produces the best units, I believe. A machine like the 600N could save up to 4 to 10 people a day in our system. We would hope to bottle oxygen for the 7 hospitals and 27 clinics. Right now, if a person needs oxygen and the power goes out, which it does quite a bit, the person dies.”
When told that the first transport ventilator had been purchased despite it being useless without the AirSep machine his repsonse was as follows.
It is a step of faith in trying to save the lives of people you do not know. It is foolish, crazy, and humble enough to be God at work. Our biggest problem will be the pressurized oxygen that it needs to function.
It is my sincere hope that you consider supporting this. I just can’t imagine that in a world with 7 billion people that together we can’t find those who will see the value in this. I wish I was Hindu and could die and come back as a cute 6 year old with a lemonade stand and a great idea. But I am a 46 year old tub of goo that currently appears to have been built for radio.
This is not some corny DIRECTV commercial with a funny punch line. It is literally life and death.
Are there any other average people with above average desires to make an impact on this planet that is a gift that will continue to give? Who's with me?