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Identity & Community

Local Charity Wants to Send Life-Saving Nebulizers to Developing Countries

An asthmatic child in Latin American village gasps for air, struggling to breath. The mother has gotten her son to a medical clinic where she knows the life saving medicine is stored, but she has to endure an agonizing wait as another child gets treatment from the only nebulizer machine in the district.

In the meantime, thousands of the machines that aspirate the liquid medication for inhalation sit on shelves in southwestern Pennsylvania, gathering dust never to be used again. 

A local charity wants to get those nebulizers out of those closets and into the health centers where they can save lives.

“It’s a very reliable machine, so we want to capture as many of those as possible and get them to children who don’t have access on their own,” said Global Links Deputy Director Angela Garcia.

Often young patients grow out of the asthma that necessitated the machines, or they can control their breathing through inhalers or “puffers,” and they no longer need the machines. However, those machines cannot be sent back to the hospital or manufacturer for re-use in this country.

“Mothers I talk to tell me, ‘I never knew what to do with that,’” said Garcia, who has been quietly collecting the machines for seven years. “Once you use it you know it has life saving capabilities… to hook up that machine and literally open their airways, it sticks with you and you don’t want to throw it away. This gives people an outlet for donating them and helping other children with asthma.”

Garcia’s 7-year-old son still uses his machine on bad days, but she has been able to ship machines used by other relatives to communities in need.

This Monday, Global Links will be holding its first-ever public collection of the machines. Anyone can drop off their nebulizers from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Assumption Church Rectory in Bellevue (45 North Sprague Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15202).

Garcia said the Breath Campaign has just partnered with Global Links to offer additional collection opportunities throughout the summer, including at a table at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. The goal is to expand the project with collections outside of the region.

Garcia said any unused masks and tubing will also be accepted, but battery operated units will not. A tax receipt can be issued to the giver if requested.