One Volunteer’s Impact on Primary Care

“See that?” says Jim Carr, pointing out a deep crease in a piece of red tubing snaking out of a blood pressure cuff. “This one is new out of the box, but it won’t last long with that crease in it.” He pulls the faulty tubing off – he’ll find a better piece, attach it into the cuff, and pack it for donation to a hospital or clinic in an underserved community where, thanks to Jim, it should last for a long time.

Since Jim began volunteering at Global Links in November 2005, every blood pressure unit we have sent out has been checked and, if necessary, repaired by Jim.  Jim is an Equipment Specialist, a volunteer who has received training to manage one specific project. He comes in as his time permits, and he takes great satisfaction in knowing not only how vitally important blood pressure units are for primary care, but also that, as he says, the ones Global Links sends “are going to work.”

“Jim’s dedication to his work at Global Links is remarkable,” says Medical Outreach Manager Hayley Brugos.  “Working with blood pressure units requires matching the proper size cuffs, bulbs, stethoscopes and the detailed work of making sure each gauge is calibrated properly.  Jim pulls all of these components together.  He’s totally reliable. And he wouldn’t want me to say this, but he’s a real sweetheart.”

Jim Carr with all the components of blood pressure units.

While there is no special knowledge required to be a volunteer equipment specialist, Jim says that mechanical skills come in handy. A former electrical technician with Bell Atlantic, which is now Verizon, Jim, age 70, brings a certain know-how to the job.

Testing every gauge takes not only patience and meticulous attention to detail, it also takes a special tool – created for Global Links by University of Pittsburgh Engineers for Sustainable Medical Development. “This group has been collaborating with Global Links since last year, looking for simple solutions to recurring problems in resource-poor communities,” explains Global Links Deputy Director Angela Garcia. “One of Jim’s challenges was how to calibrate the BP units, so when he opened one up and showed the engineers the inside, they developed a small, specialized wrench that enables him to calibrate the gauge. We have plenty of units, they just need to be recalibrated.”

Global Links includes BP units in just about every shipment as well as with many medical service trips. “They are one of the most important tools for primary care,” says Suture and Medical Service Trip Manager Jennifer Novelli. “Expectant mothers and many other community members need to have their blood pressure checked regularly, and there is just no way to do that without a blood pressure unit.”

Since Jim’s first day on the job, he has prepped nearly 2000 BP units. “It’s not rocket science,” he says. “But if you’ve got time on your hands, you may as well be helping somebody.”

 

Dr. Luther Castillo of Honduras checks a patient’s blood pressure with a unit prepared for donation by Jim Carr.

Global Links is looking for more volunteer Equipment Specialists. Please visit our website for more information.

Please make a donation to Global Links in support of primary care.

 

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