Christmas comes in January for LBJ Medical Center
A massive shipment of medical supplies and equipment— “items both simple and highly technical” according to LBJ CFO and acting
CEO Rick Nader, was presented to a grateful administration at LBJ Medical Center in American Samoa on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010.
The donation, collected and shipped to the territory by a private California organization called “Project SAVE”, has been estimated to be worth over $300,000, and consists of items which will be “quickly put to use all over the hospital,” according to Nader.
It is one of the largest private donations— if not the largest— received in the territory since the tsunami disaster that leveled villages and changed lives forever in September, 2009.
Following a light, drizzling rain, the group gathered in front of the 40 foot container, being housed in one of the hospital’s parking areas to hear from Dr. Linda Halderman, a visiting surgeon from Sacramento, California, who was the driving force behind the donation.
Dr. Halderman, a petite woman whose tiny size belies an enormous capacity for hard work and good deeds, smiled broadly as the words were read out, “This is a gift of love from some northern Californians who learned about what the island has faced since September 29, 2009.”
She was contracted to serve LBJ later in the year; however, the devastation and life-changing events of September 29 caused then CEO Patricia Tindall to ask Halderman if she would consider coming to American Samoa sooner, in light of the tragic tsunami and the difficult days which followed.
(The backstory is even more dramatic— when Halderman heard of the devastation, she tried to call every number she had— couldn’t get through to anyone. Fearing her contacts may be dead, she contacted FEMA— who found Tindall— and the CEO asked her how soon she could get here.)
Dr. Halderman said that in 48 hours, she had her ticket in hand. Once here, Dr. Halderman poured herself into the work she loves. She found, as many before her have found, that the local staff must often “make do” without some basic surgery items and simple supplies.
As someone who believes deeply in the good which can come from volunteer organizations and “everyday people”, she went to her extensive list of contacts and solicited help.
In email correspondence with Samoa News, she said a few days ago: “The container is here... it has made its way from Chico to Oakland to Pago Pago! She went on... “I visited the Pago Pago Harbor yesterday, trying to sneak a peak at the container (as if I’d know what it looks like among hundreds stacked high on the shore).”
Calling it “one of the most beautiful harbors in the world” she said, “although I couldn’t identify which 40-foot container was northern California’s Christmas present to American Samoa, I’m pretty sure it could only add to the harbor’s beauty.”
It was through her work with California State Senator Sam Aanestad— for whom Dr. Halderman serves as senior policy advisor— that Project SAVE was contacted.
The senator’s staff was in touch with the volunteer organization in Chico, California that collects and organizes shipments of medical equipment and supplies worldwide. It is funded, according to her, by the generosity of private individuals, and does not accept government funding.
In a statement given at the presentation of the container to LBJ, it was noted, “Through Project SAVE, and at the request of California State Senator Sam Aanestad, this shipment is presented as a gift from the people of Northern California to the people of American Samoa.”
The donation was sent on behalf of the medical and nursing professionals, hospitals and clinics across California, whose donations represent hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies given without publicity, governmental involvement, and (in most cases) recognition.
But for a donation of this size, recognition is in order, and , according to Dr. Halderman, these are the groups, organizations and individuals “without whom this donation would never have happened:”
1. Project SAVE of Chico, California - a non-profit organization affiliated with California’s Enloe Medical Center.
Under Executive Director Janice Walker, Project SAVE volunteers collected and organized the entire shipment of medical equipment and supplies.
2. The Enloe Foundation, another charitable affiliate of the Enloe Medical Center, in Chico, as represented by Vice President Bob Adams.
Through the Enloe Foundation, Mr. Adams arranged the donation that paid the entire cost of shipping--reportedly $7,000.
3. Benevolence Beyond Politics, Inc., the company that provided logistics support for the massive shipment, as directed by founder Eric Charles.
4. Ms. Kathy Hilke, Capitol Office Administrator for California State Senator Sam Aanestad, and Preston Dickinson, District Representative for Senator Aanestad.
Kathy and Preston learned of the difficulties faced by American Samoan patients and felt compelled to help. Said Dr. Halderman, “I cannot overstate their involvement in this donation. They are people of faith whose actions reflect the Image in which they were made.”
5. California State Senator Sam Aanestad, an oral surgeon who represents the people of northern California.
Dr. Aanestad doesn’t direct his staff members how to be of selfless service, Dr. Halderman said. “He just sets the example and smiles when we put people before politics. He enabled me to serve in American Samoa after the tsunami and has been an unfailing support for my work here.”
6. LBJ’s Director of Property Management, Joe Langkilde, who has done a great deal of work on this end to prepare for the receipt of this shipment.
Dr. Halderman said of him, “there aren’t many people on this island who could have kept this complicated process running so smoothly.” She called Joe the ‘behind the scenes’ hero who deserves much credit for his role in getting critical equipment to where it’s needed most.”
In accepting the donation, acting CEO Nader said of Dr. Halderman, “without her passion— and her compassion— this donation would not be here. She had the contacts. She made it happen.”