Oxygen equipment maker SeQual Technologies Inc. has donated three Eclipse portable oxygen concentrators to the Duk Lost Boys Clinic, which treats refugees of the War in the Darfur region of Sudan.
SeQual also sent an additional 10-liter concentrator for patients that might need higher flows, and might send more, according SeQual CEO Ron Richard. “They’re probably going to request some additional units, as they need them,” he says.
The war and ethnic cleansing in Sudan, which started in February 2003 has killed as many as 300,000 people, according to a recent British Parliamentary Report and displaced as many as 2.5 million people by 2006, according to a report in the Washington Post.
Many of those victims have been children, which is why John Dau, a Sudanese who returned to his country in 2004 after being educated in the United States, in order to create a clinic to treat refugees of the strife. Working with members of the First Presbyterian Church of Skaneateles, Dau formed a task force to build the clinic. The task force became the non-profit American Care for Sudan Foundation (ACSF), which later merged with another non-profit started by Dau, John Dau Sudan Foundation (JDSF).
The clinic opened in 2007 to provide treatment to approximately 75 people a day, many of them children, in Duk Payuel, which is located in Southern Sudan, and has so far treated at least 20,000 patients. The clinic delivers basic medical services such as general practice medicine to diagnose and treat common illnesses and specific medical disorders indigenous to this region, such as malaria, as well as to heal limbs from diseases and gunshot wounds that would otherwise require amputation.
SeQual wound up learning about the JDSF and assisting the Lost Boys Clinic, after a chain of referrals that began with Valerie Adomakoh, MD, a family physician from Germany living in Rochester, Minn.
“John Dau had a speaking event at my church in May 2008,” she says. “During his speaking event, I learned about his clinic and being a doctor, that was something I wanted to investigate.”
The next morning, Adomakoh met with Dau and learned about the clinic’s need for POCs. “The medical team was not able to help children and babies in severe respiratory distress, and they basically had to watch them fight for air and die,” she said. “These children were suffering from acute respiratory infections … and without oxygen, they die of oxygen deficiency even before any medicine can treat the underlying illness. So even the medicine that would be there cannot help them.”
The problem in getting oxygen to those patients is that the clinic uses solar panels to generate its power, and as a result, has insufficient power to support large medical equipment. It also has poor access to liquid oxygen. So it needed something with a small power footprint that could be easily transported, thus the need for POCs.
“When the weather’s bad, or they have cloudy days, there were shortages of power and the oxygen systems they were unable to generate enough energy to continue giving patients oxygen,” Richard says. “Also, logistically, it’s very difficult to deliver tanks of liquid oxygen to where this clinic is. Our solution was good because it runs on battery and it runs on AC and DC. So even if the power went completely out, they could pull a car up to the clinic and plug the POC into a car.”
SeQual recently gained approval Department of Defense approval for the Eclipse to be used in U.S. military medical helicopters, which means the devices now meet a “milspec” requirement that ensures the devices are rugged enough, incorporate an altimeter, and can work in the temperature extremes of Southern Sudan.
In late October, Dave Reid, MD from JDSF contacted Adomakoh to see if she could acquire a POC, and she began investigating starting a fund raiser to purchase one for the clinic. Adomakoh also contacted various vendors including SeQual, as well, but what helped seal the deal was a member of Adomakoh’s Bible study group, Michaela Park who’s husband, John Park, MD, works as a consultant in pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine at the Mayo Clinic with Peter Gay, MD, who knew Richard at SeQual.
Gay says he got to know Richard via the National Association for the Direction of Respiratory Care, which is a physician’s advocacy group for respiratory and sleep care, with which Richard was also involved.
Gay says he wasn’t initially convinced a POC was the right tool for the job until he learned more about the situation. “It took a little while to figure out what would be the right thing to do,” he says. “But working through this it became clear that probably the most difficult part of any medical organization in the Third World is power.”
So the Eclipse made good sense because of its battery capacity, delivery capabilities and durability, he says.
To keep the Eclipse units running in the tough environment, Richards says that clinic staff have been trained in maintaining the POCs, and have been supplied with additional parts. And if they run into any snags, SeQual can troubleshoot the POCs via an Internet connection, using its EDAT remote diagnostic system.