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All around the world, we have seen EO members answer the call to rise up in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of our ongoing MyEO Engage ALL RISE series, we take a look at an initiative working out of Madrid that helped hospitals across Spain breathe sighs of relief with their aid. For this edition, we spoke to Cristina Santisteban about how she and her chapter were able to source and distribute over a hundred ventilators for hospitals across the country.

Like many forums and chapters around the world, EO Madrid has a WhatsApp group that serves as an easy place to communicate with one another. Amidst the COVID-19 Outbreak, many of the questions were about how they could help out in their own way. Like many conversations about aid, discussions would drift towards donating masks or PPE. One of the members, Eduardo Fernandez thought it was a good idea and began to consult with his cousin, Dr. Laín Hermés González - a surgeon based in Pamplona - about mask specifications. Through their conversation, Dr. González mentioned that masks are useful, but the real need was for ventilators.

The capacity of Spain's hospitals was greatly challenged by the overwhelming number of cases, especially with a great number of patients requiring intubation to survive. Madrid’s hospitals came to the point that some doctors were already foreseeing a scenario wherein they would have to choose “who would be intubated, and who would die”, according to Eduardo. This scenario had already played out when Italy’s healthcare system was overwhelmed at the peak of the country’s infection rate. The heartbreaking situations that Italy was facing seemed to be on the horizon, and hospitals were already preparing for the worst. Eduardo and his wife Thea spoke about the idea of supplying ventilators: what it would take and where they might be able to find them. Thea’s family based in Germany own a well respected electrical safety company Bender Electronics, who over the years, had become a trusted solutions provider for hospitals across Europe. Through those connections, Eduardo and Thea learned that some of the best ventilators were German-made, and that there was an existing secondhand market for these devices. Buying these ventilators brand new wasn’t a possibility, but there were brokers who could help Eduardo acquire ten to twenty year old ventilators that would work just fine.

After some back and forth between Eduardo and his surgeon cousin to verify the quality of the potential machines, they settled on an initial order of 11 machines for Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón. Eduardo, on behalf of their EO forum, was able to speak with the hospital’s Director for Intensive Care who broke down in tears upon hearing of the donation. With these machines, one of the biggest hospitals in Madrid would be able to open up a whole new COVID-19 ward once the ventilators arrived. The initial eleven ventilators arrived from Germany through some assistance from Iberia Airlines, the flag carrier airline of Spain. The EO Madrid group did cover this first purchase of ventilators, putting up around fifty five thousand euros in private investments for all eleven units. This however was only the beginning. There was so much good that could be done for more hospitals in need across Spain with the relationships made from this donation. When word got around the Spanish medical community that Hospital Gregorio Marañón was able to find equipment no one else could, the requests for aid started coming in from dozens of hospitals across the country.

At this point, the EO Madrid members alone couldn’t fund every single ventilator out of pocket. The group, though small, had all the elements necessary to help more hospitals save lives. The efforts of the group coincided with the peaking infection rates of la Comunidad de Madrid, and the rising burden on the national healthcare system. With that, the team decided to set up a GoFundMe page to raise much needed funds, as well as solicit funds from private entities and corporations. Having these means in place, the EO Madrid team was a few pieces away from creating a sustainable infrastructure for the ventilators.

The speed with which the team needed to act was incredible. Upon sourcing a ventilator, payments were quickly transferred to secure the machines. Within 7 minutes of securing the payment, a truck would be dispatched to acquire the unit. This was made possible through the work of Cristina de Santisteban, a key member of the EO Madrid initiative. As the managing director of Boss Continental, she was instrumental in getting the ventilators into Spain and directly to the hospitals as quickly as possible. Whether the ventilator unit was in Germany, Belgium, France or Luxembourg; no matter the hour, day, night, she and her team would make sure they would be in a hospital right away. On average, it would take them less than 24 hours to transport a ventilator almost two thousand kilometers by land and air, with Cristina at times being part of the pick up teams at the airports.

To date, the EO Madrid team has raised just under € 900, 000 raised, from fellow EO members, private sponsors, and their GoFundMe page. All these funds have resulted in 110 ventilators, servicing over 20 medical facilities across the country. These efforts have garnered the team several national news features showing what the private sector is capable of in a time of crisis.

EO Madrid's wants to continue their work, however funds are running thin, and donor fatigue has set in. If you are able to support this initiative, please make a direct donation to the EO Madrid team via their GoFundMe page athttps://es.gofundme.com/f/546pc3-fighting-corona-v

If you, or your chapter are conducting efforts of any kind in the midst of this pandemic, we want to tell your story. We at the MyEO Engage team want to shine the light on you. If you are interested in sharing your efforts with us, shoot us an email at myeoengage@gmail.com about your efforts, who you are helping, and how we can share your spark of hope.

If you haven't yet, do join us on the MyEO Engage on Facebook and our official EO group.


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