Readers respond

Dec. 1, 2008

Letters to the editor

Readers respond

Missing Chris Frings

I was really sorry to hear about Chris Frings.
His column was my favorite part of your publication.

—Crystal Stevenson
Concord, CA

Editor's note: Thank you for
remembering Chris Frings. He was a big part of our world, despite the fact
that, physically, we were distanced by hundreds of miles. The column
“Management Q&A” is now under the guidance of Anne Pontius who is well-known
in the industry and who is especially qualified to speak to
laboratory-management issues. We are certain that “Management Q&A” will
continue to be a favorite of scores of

programs accredited?

Lt. Col. Michael Lopatka mentions the FDA and AABB, but I did not find
where the ASBP or facilities are accredited by any outside agency. I am
curious if donors and/or soldiers are deferred the same as civilians for
travel abroad. Do they have a lookback program in place? My thanks to
all of the military for your service!

—LuAnn Hammersland
Sedalia, MO

LTC Lopatka's response:  Ms.
Hammersland, Thank you for your question regarding the article on the
military blood program. All Armed Services Blood Program facilities maintain
FDA registration or licensure as well as accreditation with the AABB. In
doing so, we follow the guidance and standards of both organizations and
defer donors accordingly, to include travel abroad. Additionally, per the
FDA and AABB, we maintain the appropriate lookback procedures for both blood
donors and recipients. Again, thank you for you inquiry and for your support
of our military service members throughout the world.

Where's the list?

Where is the list of contacts you mentioned in a
letter in the September 2008 issue (page 8), referring to volunteering
abroad? You said it would be here on the website somewhere. I am a bit
behind in my reading and am just reading that issue but would very much like
to have a copy of this list. I have gone on medical missions with my church
to Nicaragua, but those have not involved any lab “stuff.” I would like to
be able do that, especially as I am reaching the age when I will have more

In 1998, I went as part of a group from the
University of Wisconsin here to the then-capital of Kazakhstan to help set
up a lab for VDRL and FTA testing. I broke my arm, however, and had to try
to do what I could from my hospital room — but that is another story. FYI, I
have been reading MLO for over 30 years. It really helped me at the
beginning of my career as a new supervisor in a small hospital. Thanks. Keep
up the good work.

—Nancy Sparks ,
Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene
Madison, WI

Editor's note: About the time we
promised to put a list of contacts on our website, the IT/Web team began its
final work on MLO's new website. Unfortunately, our list will be
delayed until the basics of the new homepage are finished. If you are a
reader in the market for a volunteer trip, however, we can send directly to
you a list of four or five suggestions for the time being.

Hands on!

I saw your note about information on volunteering as a lab tech. I left Sept. 25 on my first trip like this with Heart to Heart International (, along with volunteers Mike Schneiders, a retired engineer; Regina Fields, a nurse educator; and Pet Maniquis, the other medical technologist. We headed to Guatemala for a week of installing water filters in homes, assessing the health of elementary school children at seven locations, and teaching hand-washing hygiene. At the same time, we gathered information on what is needed for the next group that will go in February 2009. This is a five-year pilot project called WASH (water and sanitation hygiene).
Volunteering can be an adventure when it involves traveling to an impoverished area to work with people that speak a Mayan dialect and Spanish. (I had to laugh when I saw your From the editor article [MLO, September 2008, page 4, “Ya get no bread with one meatball.”] I left knowing how to count to 10 and how to say “I need to go to the bathroom.”)

It becomes a bigger adventure when you do not speak any of the various Mayan
dialects and only about 10 words of Spanish (I took French in college). Now,
add to that your mission of looking for parasites — the intestinal version.
This was no “Indiana Jones” search in caves but a microscopic look at the
feces of 197 children in just a few days. I learned some more Spanish. After
testing approximately 300 children in the Mayan communities around Lake
Atitlan, I was quite familiar with “mucho popo.” Yes, it is what it sounds

Did I mention it was still during the rainy season, and we had to cross a large lake with white caps during a downpour? Heart to Heart International, based in Olathe, KS, is teamed with ACONANI (National Action for Children Commission Association) of Guatemala to provide pure drinking water to those living in Solola in the Lake Atitlan area. Traveling with our group was Jorge Coromac, the Latin American coordinator from Heart to Heart International. We had two staff members from ACONANI working with us as well. A couple of previous trips made by groups from Heart to Heart and the International Rotary laid the groundwork for our initiative.

we did know was the water was contaminated, children had diarrhea, and
people did not visit the local health centers for various reasons. We had no
idea if parents would allow their children to be tested, how many children
we would have, what parasites we would find, or if we would be welcomed into
the communities. We knew our task was to go to local schools to record
information about area children (including height, weight, age); note
whether they were positive for fecal parasites and what the identity of the
parasite was; and distribute de-worming medication.

We also assessed the needs the next group of volunteers will need to address. We spent one day with a local youth committee in Cacerio San Luis installing additional water filters in homes. Follow-up healthcare is available through ACONANI and the local health centers for those needing medicine other than what we had available.

I cannot begin to describe the experience — ranging
from being overwhelmed with mothers lined up outside the school to have
their children tested for parasites, to feeling a bit like MacGyver when we
had to use an LED flashlight to keep our microscope going after a power
surge ruined the transformer, to the feeling that my heart might burst from
the gratitude from those for whom we worked. I was honored to work for the
local people in order to ease their burdens, and I look forward to returning
next year.

—Linda M. Green, MT
Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Service
Harry S. Truman Memorial
Veteran's Hospital
Columbia, MO

Editor's note: Thanks, Linda, for sharing this
information with MLO readers. See more of Linda's photos online
in “Letters to the editor.” We welcome any readers who have travelled
and served in other overseas venues to write us.