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‘Donkey Ambulance’ Facilitates Transport of Pregnant Afghan Women

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Birthing ‘Ass’-istance
When pregnant women living in the remote Afghan district of Charkent go into labor, they face a difficult decision: Either they deliver at home in unhygienic conditions without immediate access to medical expertise, or they journey up to four hours by donkey over mountainous terrain to the nearest health center. Until recently, many women risked their lives and that of their newborns by opting for home births because the hours-long trip to seek proper medical attention required sitting on a hard saddle while cinched between three sacks of straw.

Then HealthProm came along. The UK-based international development organization began operating in Afghanistan’s Balkh Province in 2009 with the goal of identifying and developing a low-cost yet high-impact solution that would reduce maternal and infant mortality in the area.

The result: An innovative inflatable donkey saddle with components borrowed from camping cushions and pool loungers. Also known as a “donkey ambulance,” the final iteration of the saddle was developed by designer Peter Muckle and pulls together the best elements of four different prototypes tested and assessed in Charkent over the past year.

“The important aspect of the project is encouraging the women to travel from the village to the health center for giving birth, which greatly increases their chance for survival,” said Dr. Azada Parsa, project manager of HealthProm's Safe Motherhood Project, in a HealthProm video promoting the donkey ambulance. “The women ask for something comfortable and safer transport and for a way to keep them warm.”

We applaud HealthProm and Peter Muckle for developing an apparatus that helps ensure that women in labor in rural Afghanistan get the best medical care possible for themselves and their newborns during and after childbirth.

More than a HIPAA Violation
Last we checked, responding to a medical emergency phoned in from a residence didn’t include pilfering the patient’s home while the patient was in the hospital.

Sadly, that was the case earlier this year in upstate New York. On Oct. 1, 48-year-old German A. Lobation, a paramedic working for different ambulance units around the Hudson Valley, was arrested for the burglary of a home in Ellenville, N.Y.

According to state police Senior Investigator Stanley O’Dell, Lobation was the “common denominator” of three Hudson Valley burglaries in which homeowners said they were robbed while they were in the hospital following an emergency call.

A search of the paramedic’s home uncovered more than $10,000 worth of jewelry, guns and cash believed to have been taken from his most recent burglary, as well as items reportedly taken in previous thefts, state police said.

“He’s a predator preying on the health of victims he’s supposed to be taking care of,” O’Dell told the Daily Freeman.

We turn our thumbs down to Lobation for giving a black eye to the reputation of paramedics and EMTs in New York’s Hudson Valley region.

EMS Goes Pink
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of death in women. But thanks to increased awareness, early detection through screening and improved treatment, death rates from the disease have been declining since 1989.

To help women continue to survive breast cancer diagnosis, two EMS groups went pink this past October in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In Maryland, the Fire/EMS Department of Prince George’s County donned pink uniform shirts to remind everyone that high-quality mammograms coupled with clinical breast exams are a woman’s best defense against breast cancer. They also visited numerous community events in their pink fire engine, “Pinky,” to help raise awareness of early breast cancer detection.

In Fort Worth, Texas, MedStar EMTs and paramedics wore pink examination gloves throughout October. In fact, by ordering 300 boxes of the “Generation Pink Exam Gloves” from healthcare supply company Medline, which was donating $1 to breast cancer research for every box of pink gloves sold in October, MedStar also helped raise $300 for the cause.

Thumbs up to the Fire/EMS Department of Prince George’s County, MedStar and all EMS services that are raising awareness to help eradicate breast cancer.

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