Haitian health group asks KSU to help with tetanus

Kathryn McGonagle


Foundation targets

student groups

Foundation targets student groups

With homes destroyed, loved ones lost and the Haitian death toll continuously rising, founder of the Haitian Health Foundation says a major contributor is the widespread increase of tetanus. Dr. Thomas Schmidlin, Kent State professor, was one of the first contacts made when trying to raise the money to send tetanus immunizations to Haiti.

“Think: If just one person at Kent State gave one dollar, there are what, 20,000 students?” Dr. Jerry Lowney said. “Imagine how many people we could help.”

Lowney, founder of the Haitian Health Foundation, said a large number of Haitian’s haven’t received tetanus immunizations.

“This is an emergency drug,” Lowney said about the need for tetanus immunizations. “They had nothing before the earthquake, and now they’re dying from something that is preventable.”

Dr. Richard Bissell, professor of emergency health services at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, said a growing number of Haitians are dying from tetanus everyday because of open and infected wounds that go untreated.

“Gradually, you lose your ability to breathe and die in horrible pain,” Bissell said.

Bissell is coordinating with the Haitian Health Foundation in Jeremie, Haiti, to get the Tetanus Immune Globulin vaccination to the earthquake victims.

The Haitian Health Foundation has been operating for 28 years to provide full health care for about 250,000 Haitians in Jeremie, but Lowney said there are now 125,000 more refugees who have flooded to the city, fleeing Port-au-Prince.

“Two hundred and fifty thousand people died in that earthquake, but what people forget is that they’re still dying,” Lowney said.

Lowney said the immunizations will be distributed among those in the clinic who are in need and showing the worst symptoms.

But the vaccinations aren’t free. So Bissell is reaching out to Kent State for help in paying for the 20 doses of TIG that cost a total of $4500.

Bissell said he was hoping student organizations raising funds for Haiti could work with the Haitian Health Foundation as an avenue to help those in need.

“Many times when you donate money to relief organizations, you never know where it goes, but this money is going directly to saving lives,” Bissell said.

Schmidlin, a geography professor, said students are more willing to donate to this cause because of his direct connection to the university.

Dr. Lowney said if students are worried about whether their money is really going to the people, they should go on the foundation’s Web site to find out more.

Juleta Newkirk, psychology graduate student, said that isn’t proof enough that a charity is reputable.

“I worry sometimes about the integrity of charities,” Newkirk said.

That fear of whether a donation gets to the people pervades Eric Stimac’s willingness to donate.

Stimac, senior nursing major, said he would be more likely to donate to large national relief organizations like the Red Cross than a smaller one.

“You have to decide if the organization is charitable and legit,” he said.

Donating to the right people, Lowney said, isn’t a student’s obligation, but a chance to reach out to those that have been hurt. He said it doesn’t matter how much a student can donate, but every cent helps.

Schmidlin concurred that students are wary about donating.

“There are scams out there, and people are warned against them, but that’s why I think these donations for tetanus immunizations are convincing because it’s a sure thing,” Schmidlin said. “Your money is going into saving lives.”

Bissell said the bottom line is that people are dying and someone needs to step up and make sure it’s stopped. He said a lot of organizations work to help Haitians in normal times because the government supplied health care is limited and that is why donations are needed so much — to help the people who have nowhere else to turn.

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reporter Kathryn McGonagle at [email protected].