Lenny Fernandez is making a difference in the lives of dialysis patients near and far. In addition to helping patients at Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH), the HRRH dialysis technologist has been volunteering in Guyana for the last several months, helping to set up a specialized not-for-profit dialysis centre.
“This has been an amazing experience and I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to help people who could otherwise not afford this type of care and treatment,” says Fernandez, who was visiting his native Trinidad last spring when the call for help arrived. “When I learned that a dialysis centre was going to be established in Guyana I wanted to do everything I could to help out.”
That so called “helping out” led to five separate trips to Guyana in the last year for Fernandez. When he first arrived in Annandale (a suburb outside of Georgetown, Guyana’s capital), the dialysis machines – intended to be set up in the now Doobay Renal Centre – were in very poor condition, many with broken and missing parts.
“I spent three days assessing the dialysis machines and making recommendations on what parts were needed to repair these machines and get them up and running to North American standards,” explains Fernandez, a biomedical engineer who’s worked at Humber River for almost 11 years. “Two months later I returned to Annandale to set up the Centre’s water system and started repairing the machines. I also began training local staff on how to fix and maintain these machines. ”
“Humber River’s Nephrology Team has been instrumental in helping us to establish our dialysis treatment facility,” says Dr. Budhendra Doobay, President of the Doobay Renal Centre. “Without the contribution from HRRH, we would not be able to perform 40 dialysis treatments per week. We look forward to building on our relationship with Humber River and continuing to benefit from their expertise.”
“We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to contribute extensive clinical knowledge, technical expertise and training to the Doobay Renal Centre in Guyana,” says Melanie Tremblay, HRRH Director of Nephrology. “The support from Dr. David Mendelssohn, our Chief and Physician Director of Nephrology, has enabled many of our team members, including Abdul Salam-Jaber, HRRH Manager of Biomedical Engineering and Jennifer Duteau, HRRH Nephrology Clinical Practice Leader, to lend their skills both ‘in the field’ and ‘behind the scenes’ to this very important project,” she adds. “It’s been rewarding to see how we’ve helped to establish a facility that’s making a big difference in the lives of many local people.”
Louisa Mackenzie is no stranger to helping people. In fact, even though she’s retired from her registered nursing role at Humber River, she volunteered for a month in Guyana last year, training the Centre’s nurses on how to administer dialysis.
“It was a wonderful experience to help out in Guyana,” says Mackenzie, who also worked as a preceptor at HRRH. “The nurses were keen and enthusiastic about learning new skills and the patients were grateful to be receiving affordable care,” she adds. “I will never forget one of the Centre’s first patients who almost died; and when I was leaving to come back to Canada he was walking in and out of the clinic; it was truly amazing to witness the difference in his health condition.”
At the end of January, members of the Humber River Nephrology Team attended the grand opening of the Centre. HRRH was honoured for their commitment to this project and for developing a protocol to provide ongoing technical assistance and staff training.
“Being in Guyana for the big event was a one-of-a-kind experience,” says Tremblay. “It was also a testament to the wonderful work from our staff members in the last several months,” she notes. “During our trip we met some of the patients who are benefitting from the dialysis treatments; we also visited the clinic and saw the results of our team’s work in many areas. It’s a great feeling to be in a partnership that results in helping so many people.”
Helping out in Guyana is here to stay for Fernandez and Humber River. Currently there are plans for HRRH to assist with the development of a three-station dialysis clinic at the Georgetown Public Hospital. “Giving to a community that needs my help is the perfect way to use my vacation time,” says Fernandez. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”