Acquisition of Two Breathing Aids Vests for the Paediatric Ward of the University Hospital of Heraklion, Crete, Greece

Project location: GREECE, Heraklion
Project start date: December 2012 - Project end date: May 2013
Project number: 2012-088
Beneficiary: Crete for Life Onlus


From 11/1/2013 to 13/1/2013

Crete For Life wanted to acquire two reconditioned vests and donate them to the Pediatric ward of the University Hospital of Heraklion, to help ease the quality of life for young patients and care givers, whether in the hospital or in the home. "The Vest® Airways Clearance System" consists of an inflatable garment connected by air hose to an electric pulse generator. Once worn, normally for between 10 to 40 minute a days, the System gently compresses and releases the chest wall up to 25 times per second, creating a repetitive number of small coughs and decreasing the viscosity of the secretions that can be expelled more easily. The effectiveness of the Vest has been proven by several medical studies and it is recommended for many pulmonary and neuromuscular conditions that impair the normal secretion of the lungs such as Cystic Fibrosis, Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia, Asthma, Cerebral Palsy and Bronchiolitis Obliterans. It is the only airway clearance method that can be administered without expertise, by either the caregiver or the patient, and it is a real, effective, alternative to the often brutal and time consuming manual percussion therapies.

Crete For Life first activity was to understand the needs and requests of the hospital: Doctor Eleni Mixhailidou, immunologist and lung specialist in the Pediatric Ward of the University Hospital of Heraklion explained the type of young patients she deals with, their families' needs and the contest of her ward within one of Greece largest hospitals. Although Doctor Mixhailidou believes "The Vest® Airways Clearance System" will be of great assistance to the ward and the families of the children in her care, the cost of one new system is out of reach for the Pediatric Ward of Heraklion's University Hospital. The hospital and Greek Ministry of Health regulations do not consider purchasing equipment that is not new, but can receive it via donations. Due to the tragically high mortality in patients born with these progressive genetic diseases, there are a number of reconditioned vests on the international market. Crete For Life has researched via the internet, through the company that imports this system in Greece and talking directly to care givers and families of patients who have been using this system about its ease and effectiveness of use and maintenance. Crete For Life thus identified the most reputable company of reconditioned systems in Colorado, USA, (Affordable Medical Equipment) that offered a wide choice of systems, insurance and back up support. Tobias Schunk of Affordable Medical Equipment has had many years of experience in working with these systems, cooperating with many of America's hospitals and lung specialists. He explained the differences between different systems and software of the same product, that was licensed in 1988 and has been in commerce for about a decade.

Crete For Life with the input of Tobias Schunk and together with Doctor Eleni Mixhailidou, immunologist and lung specialist in the Pediatric Ward of the University Hospital of Heraklion, was able thus to purchase two systems as planned. The first one is the most recent system of "The Vest® Airways Clearance System" Hill-Rom, model 105, software 1.22, with zero hours of usage, to be employed within the hospital. The second system , Hill-Rom model 105 software 1.20, is a slightly simpler program to use, is reserved for home use of families and care givers of patients of Doctor Mixhailidou. The latter has been used for 18 hours (out of the thousands it is built to perform) Each system includes a medium size child vests; an additional large child vest was purchased as to be able to use the system with children of different ages and sizes. Both systems have been cleared at customs and are now in Crete. Their documentation includes the declaration of conformity for the European Union. The vests can be used both in the hospital, but also lent to children with life-threatening conditions, in periods of remission or between hospital stays, to help them reach and maintain better breathing functions. In fact it is hoped that the Vest will help cutting down on the time these children have to spend in hospital. For this reason, once the two systems have been accepted as a gift by the hospital, Crete For Life will be organizing a one day's workshop in Heraklion University Hospital for doctors, nurses and families of the children in care, with the aim to inform and train the care givers of the best use, functioning and maintenance of the systems. The workshop will be held by the Hill-Rom sale representative and certified maintenance contractor for Greece, Mr. Nikos Chatziioannidis Unfortunately there is no miracle cure, yet, for these unfortunate children born with genetic diseases that make breathing, the most vital of our functions, a challenge. Crete For Life hopes that the use of "The Vest® Airways Clearance System" will offer some help and support to these children in their challenging lives.

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