HTM On The Line with BRYANT HAWKINS SR.

Sailing For Hope: Stories of Healing and Humanity

October 24, 2023 Bryant Hawkins Sr. Season 1 Episode 44
Sailing For Hope: Stories of Healing and Humanity
HTM On The Line with BRYANT HAWKINS SR.
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HTM On The Line with BRYANT HAWKINS SR.
Sailing For Hope: Stories of Healing and Humanity
Oct 24, 2023 Season 1 Episode 44
Bryant Hawkins Sr.

Have you ever wondered what life is like on board one of the world's largest civilian hospital ship? Join us as we navigate the unique experiences and insights of our guest, Guido Kortleven, a senior Biomedical Technician with Mercy Ships. Guido shares his life-changing journey with us, illustrating the power of volunteering and how it has taught him invaluable lessons in humility and gratitude. His vivid descriptions of the diverse crew and volunteers on board the ship offers a celebration of diversity and human strength like no other.

As we sail through the conversation, Guido anchors a deep understanding of his role at Mercy Ships and highlights the ripple effect of training healthcare providers in underserved areas. He navigates us through the complex seas of supply chains, emphasizing the importance of planning ahead and the challenges that come with it. From his perspective, we understand the vital role that collaboration and mutual understanding play when you're working with volunteers from different nationalities, all united by a common purpose.

As we dock at the end of our discussion, Guido underlines the significance of responsible donations and how individuals and organizations can throw their anchor to support the mission of Mercy Ships. He outlines the qualities and skills that make a good volunteer and shares his hopes for the future of Mercy Ships. Listen closely as he recounts the life-changing impact of medical treatments on patients' lives and the importance of humanitarian work. Guido's powerful testimony of his volunteer work is bound to leave you with a renewed perspective on healthcare, volunteering, and the power of unity.

This podcast is sponsored by The College  of  Biomedical Equipment Technology. You can find out more information about this outstanding institution at CBET.EDU.

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Have you ever wondered what life is like on board one of the world's largest civilian hospital ship? Join us as we navigate the unique experiences and insights of our guest, Guido Kortleven, a senior Biomedical Technician with Mercy Ships. Guido shares his life-changing journey with us, illustrating the power of volunteering and how it has taught him invaluable lessons in humility and gratitude. His vivid descriptions of the diverse crew and volunteers on board the ship offers a celebration of diversity and human strength like no other.

As we sail through the conversation, Guido anchors a deep understanding of his role at Mercy Ships and highlights the ripple effect of training healthcare providers in underserved areas. He navigates us through the complex seas of supply chains, emphasizing the importance of planning ahead and the challenges that come with it. From his perspective, we understand the vital role that collaboration and mutual understanding play when you're working with volunteers from different nationalities, all united by a common purpose.

As we dock at the end of our discussion, Guido underlines the significance of responsible donations and how individuals and organizations can throw their anchor to support the mission of Mercy Ships. He outlines the qualities and skills that make a good volunteer and shares his hopes for the future of Mercy Ships. Listen closely as he recounts the life-changing impact of medical treatments on patients' lives and the importance of humanitarian work. Guido's powerful testimony of his volunteer work is bound to leave you with a renewed perspective on healthcare, volunteering, and the power of unity.

This podcast is sponsored by The College  of  Biomedical Equipment Technology. You can find out more information about this outstanding institution at CBET.EDU.

Support the Show.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to HTM on the Line, the podcast that is for HTM by HTM. I'm your host, bryant Hawkins Sr. I have to tell you today's episode is truly inspiring. Today we're setting sail on an incredible journey. Have you ever wondered what it's like to work in health care on a ship Going to far-distant corners of the world to help those in need? In this episode, we introduce you to a remarkable individual, gido Cortlaven, a senior B-man with Mercy ships.

Speaker 1:

Gido isn't just a health care worker. He's a beacon of hope and a symbol of unwavering faith. He's using his skills to change lives in ways you couldn't imagine. Volunteering is often perceived as a one-way street, a selfless act of giving, but Gido challenges that notion. In his heartfelt recount of life-changing medical procedures he's witnessed, he illustrates how he's also been on the receiving end of profound lessons in humility and gratitude. It takes meticulous planning for spare parts, supplies and fostering harmonious work environment with a diverse team of volunteers and crew members. Gido shares the challenges and the rewards of this unique journey, and you'll be amazed by his unwavering dedication to making the world a better place.

Speaker 1:

That's not all. Gido will take us on a voyage through the fascinating cultural exchange that takes place in this floating haven of healing. It's a testament to the power of unity, the celebration of diversity and the strength of the human spirit. So, whether you're a healthcare professional and aspiring volunteer, or simply someone seeking inspiration and hope, you're in for a captivating and enlightening journey. Join us as we dive deep into Gido Court-Leven's story and discover the profound impact of healthcare on the high seas. Gido Court-Leven, man, it's so great to have you on HTM on the line. How are you doing today?

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much for having me, Brian. It's good to be here today. I'm doing very well.

Speaker 1:

Wow. So what does our time look like? What time is it where you're at right now?

Speaker 2:

It's 3 pm this afternoon here in the Netherlands.

Speaker 1:

Okay, we are eight o'clock over here in central time in the US, so we got a nice bit of time between us. We're going to make this work. Let me ask you this one question to get started first. Can you start off by introducing yourself and sharing a bit about your background and how you became involved with Mercy Ship as a volunteer? Yeah, of course.

Speaker 2:

Thank you Well, I'm Gido. I'm from the Netherlands, I'm at the moment, 34 years old, married and have a family with four boys, and I worked since 2019 for Mercy Ships as a volunteer senior biomedical technician. I worked for 10 years in the healthcare technology management field in the Netherlands, here in the Dutch hospital. First is a biomedical technician and the last eight years as a manager of a biomedical team support team in the hospital. It was a medium-sized hospital 390 beds and seven wash you know, perfect size for me and 2018 I worked for a little bit for an IT company that was specialized in critical no-transcript and I was responsible for implementing the message broker, iq messenger, and that is a software product that connects medical devices like infusion pumps, vital signs monitors and such equipment to existing communication systems pages, phones, you know all that kind of stuff and I was halfway well, I was five, six months in and worships contacted me again, I have to say, and asked if I was available for the senior biomedical position.

Speaker 2:

So I left my job after a few months and that's why I ended up in July 2019 on board of the Africa Mercy. At that moment, it was the world's largest civilian hospital ship, but soon later, in 2020,. We got the global mercy delivered, taking over the title, and I got involved with that as well. That is the newest custom build, most hospital ship of mercy ships.

Speaker 1:

You said you joined the mercy ship in 2019. Now, mercy ship is known for providing the central medical care to a lot of undeserved communities. What motivated you to volunteer your time to this cause?

Speaker 2:

My motivation comes from the example of Jesus and he said treat others like you want to be treated. And I worked, you know, and lived in the Netherlands, and we have a very high level of healthcare system in the Netherlands, you know, one of the best in the world in terms of availability, quality and you know, and I benefited from that.

Speaker 2:

You know, whenever I needed something, I could go to the doctor without any compromise and knowing that there are 5 billion people in this world who don't have access to such care or no healthcare at all, you know. That made me think what can I do about it with my talents that God gave me? And when I discovered mercy ships or well, you know, learn more about mercy ships really in detail in 2017 and I heard about the biomedical position on board I really saw a fit there where I could help with my talents, my specialty, my experience, my background in this mission. It's always good to mine to keep. You know, keep in mind. Treat others like you want to be treated, because it's also a very good value how you do your work with integrity and, yeah, the quality. You want to see if this equipment would be used for you. You know how do you want the equipment to perform.

Speaker 1:

Ghetto. Could you describe some of the specific roles and responsibilities you have had as a Mercy ship volunteer, htm professional?

Speaker 2:

Well, since 2019, I've been serving as senior biomedical technician all the time in the same you know role. The senior biomedical technician on board of the ship oversees the whole maintenance package for the hospital and also gives guidance to the biomedical team, and that's two till three biomedical technicians at the time. So it's a small team and we have to take care for all the equipment. On board of the Africa Mercy, we had around 1200 pieces of equipment. Now on the global mercy, which is slightly bigger, we have 1500 pieces of equipment and we have to take care for the equipment as soon as it arrives on board. So you know it's commissioning of the equipment, but also preventive maintenance and support, you know, when there are problems, helping the users. Some training, if you know, as far as possible.

Speaker 1:

How is your experience with Mercy Ships affected your perspective on, let's say, against global health care, poverty and the access to medical services in these undeserved areas? How has this experience affected your view on that?

Speaker 2:

Well, massively Serving with a background in an almost non-limited resource environment. Money is also limited in the Netherlands, but there is so much money available for the healthcare. With that background going to limited resource settings, it changed my perspective a lot. I think one of the most important lessons I've learned is that knowledge is key. You can have a lot of resources, but if you don't know how to put them into use, it's still useless. It's very important that you have a good education system. That's also why I like the mission of Mercy Ships so well, because we deliver direct medical care, we treat patients, but on the other side we also train local healthcare providers. With that, you make an even bigger change. This is the ripple effect. You train people, but over the years they will increase the skills and serve their own healthcare system. Helping patients is great and we have a great environment for that on board, very high-tech, high-quality hospital. But on the other side also we use it as a reference to show to other people what they could work towards too. Serve as a reference that how you do certain things. Then with the whole system, everything is working.

Speaker 2:

What I've heard from local biomedical technicians, for example one of the biggest challenges is the supply chain getting spare parts in. We have that challenge on board as well, because we have quite a long supply chain, but we have still access to our warehouses in Texas and in Rotterdam. But we also have to think three months ahead. That's how long it usually takes to get a container shipped to the ships in Africa. We have already a supply chain system for spare parts, for example, and a stock system in place that can serve as a reference as well. In certain way, we deal with the same challenges. The only difference is that we have more resources available. One of the other things is, as well, what I've learned from serving In the Netherlands. You can ask yourself the question when is it enough? Well, it's very hard to be happy, because there's always more that you want and what I have seen in limited resource settings in, well, the countries in Africa that we have been serving, it's important to realize that our well-being is not directly related to money.

Speaker 1:

You train technicians when you go to these countries. What type of training do you provide to biome technicians?

Speaker 2:

My colleague Emmanuel Essa is the project manager for that and we have an external company providing the training for us. But then we provide a basic biomed course for eight weeks training how to use test equipment, because worships also donate test equipment electrical safety testers and patient simulators, some specialized test equipment. So they get also training how to use that, because most of the time the countries we serve this equipment is not available at all. So the technicians know from their study that it exists and how to use it. But using it in a practical setting and how do you apply that is quite different. So during that eight week course they also get familiar with the test equipment and how to use it to provide safe surgical care.

Speaker 1:

at the end how do you collaborate with your fellow volunteers and the ship crew, to that matter? How do you guys make the teamwork play successful?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's a great question. I mean I would love to take you to the ship and have you working there for a day and you will understand the ships are very unique experience. We work with volunteers from more than 50 different nationalities, so that's already, you know, a very mixed environment and you need to work together. You need to work to collaborate to make it work. I think one of the keys to success in teamwork on board is everybody is a volunteer, so people want to be there. It's not a job. They need to make money, but they want to serve.

Speaker 2:

So that shapes the atmosphere on board. It gives a whole different perspective On the other side. We also realize on board because it's kind of, you know, a floating village we cannot do it without one of us. You need a housekeeper to keep it clean and not to spread around any germs. You need the surgeon, otherwise we were not in mission. You need the captain, otherwise you cannot operate the ship safely.

Speaker 2:

So there is this sense on board that everybody is as important as the other. You cannot say, okay, you know we do it without you because we have limited bed space on board. On board of the global mercy, we have a place for 650 volunteers and every department wants more, of course. So there is this very balanced staffing plan where everybody on board is important and needed. So that helps already to value each other and to have a certain sense of equality. One is not more important than the other, because if you drop out we need to stop our mission, for example, or find another one. So I think that is one of the keys to success. You know, being too willing to be on board, but also realizing that we are all contributing to the same mission and equal in that sense.

Speaker 1:

Let's see if I can change this up a little bit without getting you too emotional. As a volunteer, you may have encountered patients with limited access to medical care or complex cases. How do you cope with the emotional and mental challenges that may arise from this work?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, how do you cope with it? I think one of my most important coping mechanisms is, you know, stay healthy, stay fit. I try to run three times a week because physical exercise is also important, you know, to drain your stress level. Well, the great thing is that I'm serving together with my family on board. So I walk two minutes and I'm in my cabin and, you know, have the family around so, and we are in this together.

Speaker 1:

Living and working on a hospital ship. That's pretty unique. It's almost like working on a cruise ship, I guess. Can you talk about the challenges and opportunities you probably have encountered while serving on this ship?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, the ship's environment is almost like a small village. Sometimes you don't realize even that you're on board a ship. I think one of the challenges is the opposite of what I just described, because of you know that small distance between work and personal space. It's also difficult to maintain a separation between work and, you know, personal life. I think it's healthy to have certain separation between those two Work-wise. I think you know the challenges.

Speaker 2:

What's the opportunities that we have with serving on board of a ship is we can bring this platform from country to country. We are serving usually 10 months in a row in one port and you take that ship the next year to another port and you still have the same platform, you have the same hospital, but when you look out of your window you have a different view. You're in a different country and you get other people on board. We work always with local day crew. They serve as translators or they work in housekeeping or in the galley, the ship's kitchen, or in the engine room. So you also get the local culture on board, which is great, unique. If you would build a hospital ashore, you are not able to seal to another country. You have to stay there and you work always with the same people. In this way, you get to learn different cultures, different African cultures, get to work with different people every year, and that's one of the great things. Serving with so many people from around the world, you can learn so much from each other. Every culture brings something to your personal life that you can learn from In terms of, you know, working on a ship.

Speaker 2:

One of the challenges sometimes is the ship is moving. The ship needs to be leveled, otherwise, you know the OR lights might be drifting away. So we need to maintain a close communication to the chief engineer who is responsible for the stability of the ship. Sometimes, when they're bunkering, you know taking a new fuel, the stability of the ship that's. You know the OR lights are drifting away and you dig a little deeper and you find out that they're bunkering, for example, and that's why the ship is listing. You know there's little things that are connected to living and working on board of a ship.

Speaker 1:

Being that you've been on various countries and regions, how has your experience working with different cultures and, I guess we could say, healthcare systems, influence your perspective on global health?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I've been a few times a shore in hospitals and I have to say that I have a lot of respect for the people working there. You know in those challenging circumstances what they are able to achieve. Yeah, they have my respect. In the Western world we need to be more careful with donations. I don't know if you're aware, but the WHO came out with a report some years ago and that stated that about 80% to 90% of all the equipment in developing countries is donated but only 10% to 30% is working and we easily say, oh yeah, that's because of lack of knowledge.

Speaker 2:

But quite often there are other things involved. You know, we donate our old equipment, we get rid of it, so it's not our problem anymore and we think, oh, that's useful, gives us a good feeling. But on the other side, where it is already difficult to get spare parts, for example, and repair equipment, or sometimes there is also the lack of knowledge or experience to repair equipment or no access to service manuals, for example, and that makes why so much equipment that has been donated is not in use. So it opened my eyes. You know that we need to be more careful in the Western world with donations. If you donate your old car and give it to your younger brother, for example. You know, when you know it is a bad car and it's using a lot of oil, you probably think twice before you donate it to your smaller brother or you tell him what's wrong with it. But that's quite often not the case. When we donate something, we think oh yeah, I don't use it anymore.

Speaker 2:

this is all the equipment. Yeah, let's look for a good purpose, but it would be better if we first repair and make sure that all the documentation that's needed to operate the equipment safe you know, service manual, user manual. If we make sure that that is available, then donate it, or even consider donating new equipment.

Speaker 1:

I think that's one of the major eye-opening for me in the past few years as well, and since we're talking about donations, mercyship, as we know, relies heavily on volunteers and, no doubt, donations. Also, how can individuals and organizations support the mission of Mercyship in terms of funding and volunteer opportunities? I know you mentioned about donating equipment, but how can they help out in terms of funding and, say, volunteer opportunities?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, there are different ways to help. If I look to companies, for example, some companies can contribute, even with equipment. We partner already with some companies that donate or give equipment with a big discount. Of course, financial aid is also, the donations are also possible, and I think human capital is very valuable. You know the whole world is looking for engineers, I believe, at the moment. So look to the volunteer part. What companies or hospitals or organizations can do as well is release your people for some time so they can volunteer on board. It might be difficult to free up somebody's time, but I'm 100% sure that they come back with so much more dedication to the work, also because they have seen how it can be so different in another country that you count your blessings. For the long term. It would be good also if you allow your people to volunteer.

Speaker 2:

And if you're listening to this podcast and you're interested yourself in volunteering, I would say have a look at opportunitiesmurceshipsorg and you can see which possibilities there are. So we had project assistants and those were people that volunteered for short term commitments like four weeks.

Speaker 1:

I know you probably made making Kimberly Ames real proud, mentioning all the opportunities, what I will definitely put in the comment link all the information you just mentioned so they can click on the links and see what the mercieship has to offer Now. Thank you so much. What skills or qualities do you believe are essential for someone Considering volunteering with mercieships, especially in a health care capacity?

Speaker 2:

What is necessary for mercieships? Also what is necessary for a normal hospital, I would say, because I believe the qualities of a good biomedical technician is that they are eager, curious, never think. When they have an answer, always think twice. Is this really the answer or do we need to dig deeper? Look at another source. What probably is a quality that you need to have on board is that you need to be able to be working independently more than in a normal hospital because the teams are so small.

Speaker 1:

Looking to the future, what are your hopes and aspirations for the continued work of Mercy Ships?

Speaker 2:

My big hope at the moment is that we are able to work side by side with local biomedical technicians. We have already onboard the mentoring program and they do that with some nurses and surgeons. They invite local surgeons to work onboard side by side with our own surgeons, for example, or nurses, and I would like to see that to happen as well for biomedical technicians. I think on one side it contributes to their experience because they see a total working hospital. They see all processes and can take out of our situation what might work in their situation.

Speaker 2:

You can teach a lot, you know, go there and teach and offer a course, but then you're telling them what to do. But if you show by example what you are doing and show a working example, that allows local healthcare providers and biomedical technicians in this case to take out of those examples what might work in their situation with probably more limited resources. But if they have seen the whole system working, then they can take whatever they think is useful in their environment. So what I'm really looking forward to is to have a kind of mentoring program and have local biomedical technicians, for two or three months probably at a time, working alongside with us and on board of the global mercy. We have the space to do that. Our workshop is quite big, so I'm really looking forward to you know, start that program.

Speaker 1:

Gido, can you share any personal lessons or insights you've gained from your time as a Mercy Ships volunteer that have a lasting impact on your life and career?

Speaker 2:

But when I look back now after four years I think, wow, I've learned so much. You know from other people around me colorfulness of this world. That's amazing. You know that you are just a little part in this whole. You know well in Mercy Ships, in this organization, but also in life. You know you're just playing your little part. You need to value the others around you because you can learn so much from others. I would have never experienced this if I was living in the Netherlands for the rest of my life and didn't step out. You know that mind shift that opens my eyes from okay, you are here to help to watch, you know, change my attitude to okay, I have learned so much from others kind of humbles you and I think that's very helpful for the rest of your life and career as well.

Speaker 1:

In conclusion and I appreciate you coming on, gido what message or encouragement would you like to leave with our listeners about the importance of humanitarian work and volunteering with organizations like Mercy Ships?

Speaker 2:

I hope that I brought this message over, that it contributes to your own life as well. A quote of Dr Gary Parker, who serves on board as well. It's a surgeon, he serves already for more than 34 years with Mercy Ships and he says you cannot change the whole world, but you can change the whole world for one person at a time and another and another. So what we sometimes tend to say about humanitarian work as you know, you cannot solve all world problems, but if you have this perspective, it is big enough to take on your own shoulders, but small enough to take on your own shoulders, but big enough to leave a lasting legacy in this world. Yeah, it adds so much to your own life. Even though you are going to give, you get back more than you would give yourself.

Speaker 1:

I know I said that was the last question, but one just popped in my head by you talking about the doctor's quote. Can you discuss maybe the types of medical treatments and surgeries you have witnessed and how they have transformed the lives of the patients?

Speaker 2:

It was for a surgery going on and I continued my walk towards the OR and then I passed the OR where a big surgery was going on and they removed the tumor of 12 or 13 kilograms or so from the back of the patient. It was massive tumor and I could not imagine how that changed the life of that patient. Just imagine that you have a backpack continuously on your back with the weight of 13 kilos and you need to do everything with that your job. I think the relief for that patient was massive.

Speaker 2:

We have different types of surgeries on board. We focus mainly on the types of surgery that picks the problems that are caused by poverty. So we do a lot of max-fac surgery maxilliofacial, the tumors in the mouth, neck. We have reconstructed plastics on board and you see how patients, usually with burn contractures, are freed again so they have functional arms or legs and they can do the job again and live normal life. That changes messes. I have seen the kids coming in with their wind-swept legs and orthopedic surgeons they fix it and they walk out with straight legs again after a few weeks. It's massive transformation in the life of those patients, very visible for us on board as well.

Speaker 1:

I'm still sitting here thinking about the 13 kilogram tumor. That's what 28 pounds could be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I think so that's mind-blowing. What you guys doing is commendable and appreciate all the work you're doing, sir. You did a great work and anytime you would like to come back and share more stories, you're more than welcome. Thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much for having me Bryant and sharing a little bit about the work of the chips. Yeah not a problem.

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