The COVID-19 pandemic has reached catastrophic highs with devastating losses of human life and a shattered world economy. Using every resource possible to battle the coronavirus has caused many to call it the ‘third World War.’ Down in the state of Georgia, unemployment hit a historic high at 11.9%. Bustling cities like Atlanta, too, have seen shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), making it difficult for hospitals and healthcare institutions there to procure enough to meet the demand. As the situation began to unfold, Tzu Chi Atlanta volunteers carefully monitored the situation, receiving requests for assistance in finding PPE.
From May 18-20, volunteers delivered a total of 30,750 surgical masks, 1,840 medical masks, 2000 KN95 respirators, 200 goggles, and 150 coveralls to nine departments across seven hospitals. They also brought Tzu Chi Journals, our exclusive publication, to help introduce Tzu Chi USA and its work.
Before this, Tzu Chi Atlanta volunteers made a small donation on May 11 at the Emory University Hospital’s ICU, who followed up with a second donation request. A week later, on May 18, volunteers donated a round of 300 surgical masks. Jing Hu, a registered nurse (RN) at Emory, let us know she would allocate them to staff on four different shifts. As a touching gesture of thanks, Emory staff sent pictures with the masks!
At Northside Hospital Duluth, ICU RN Su-Wen Hsu accompanied Stacy Waits, Director of the Critical Care Department, to accept medical supplies donated by Tzu Chi outside the hospital entrance on May 20th. The donation included 2,000 surgical masks, 500 medical masks, 500 KN95 respirators, 50 goggles, and 60 coveralls.
Nurse Hsu explained that the ICU and ER were where there was the greatest action, stress, and risk of infection to medical staff at Northside. She expressed her gratitude for Tzu Chi being so eager to offer her and her colleagues peace of mind.
On the same day, Tzu Chi Atlanta volunteers also delivered 50 surgical masks and 20 medical masks at the entrance of Emory Johns Creek Hospital. To welcome us was surgical RN Dang Wang, who said she was very grateful for Tzu Chi’s support when they most needed the supplies.
Volunteers also provided PPE to the Emory Johns Creek Hospital Rehabilitation Services Department. Dr. Zuowei Zhao, a physical therapist there, and Dr. Alex Davidovich, the outpatient supervisor, accepted 2,000 surgical masks, 500 KN95 respirators, 50 goggles, and 30 coveralls. Mr. Zhao is himself a Buddhist and was very impressed with Tzu Chi putting Buddhist principles into action.
Then at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital, our volunteers delivered 2,000 surgical masks, 500 medical masks, 50 goggles, and 30 coveralls, accepted by Anesthesiologist Dr. Michelle Au and her colleagues. Her work involves the hefty task of intubating patients, making Dr. Au and those in the same position at high risk for contracting the coronavirus in the process. Our volunteers were in awe of her selfless spirit.
Volunteers next drove over an hour to Piedmont Hospital Athens in Athens, GA. Dee Dee Risher, Director of Performance Improvement, accepted their donation of 2,000 surgical masks and 500 medical masks on behalf of the hospital. Ms. Risher expressed her gratitude for Tzu Chi’s donation to this more remote hospital as they were running low. Volunteers also presented Tzu Chi Journals for the hospital staff to understand and learn more about Tzu Chi.
Back in April, Tzu Chi Atlanta volunteers had donated PPE to Northeast Georgia Medical Center-Gainesville, where histology department researcher Jane Zheng told us that her husband, Dr. Tian Xia, is an ER doctor at Houston Healthcare Perry. This hospital is 2-1/2 hours away from where she works. Because the hospital is more remote, she told us it had been difficult for them to acquire the PPE they needed. Zheng asked if Tzu Chi Atlanta would consider donating supplies to her husband’s institution, too.
To fulfill her request, volunteers drove to Ms. Cheng’s home on May 20, where Dr. Xia packed them into his car. The next morning, Dr. Xia, Dr. Chris Hobbs, the ER Director, and other colleagues took photos in front of the hospital with Tzu Chi’s donated supplies of 2,000 surgical masks, 500 KN95 masks, 50 goggles, and 30 coveralls. What a sweet gesture!
Piedmont Healthcare is a non-profit organization with 11 hospitals and 27 emergency centers located across Georgia, serving 2.5 million patients. On May 22, volunteers brought PPE donations to their headquarters at Piedmont Atlanta, including 700 surgical masks and 20 medical masks to the Cardiovascular Nursing Department. In addition, Mr. Kyle Fortman accepted 20,000 surgical masks and 500 KN95 masks on behalf of the hospital. Ms. Alfreda Ferrell also thanked Tzu Chi’s assistance and said they will allocate the supplies to their branch hospitals.
The coronavirus outbreak’s impact has been severe and fareaching. Though Tzu Chi has had limited resources, volunteers have still tried their best to relieve the needs of healthcare workers. Tzu Chi Atlanta will be working on more.