Warm Hearts from Malawi

The New Year has brought us warm hearts, including Malawi: the “Warm Heart of Africa”. We were granted the opportunity to visit the beautiful Blantyre through a Grand Challenge for Development program. The Saving Lives at Birth community, including their network of global health aficionados from VentureWell, hosted an Xcelerator program in Malawi. Its intent is to jumpstart an incredible cohort of technologies into the global health system, be they non-profit, for-profit; university- based or independently-based.

Naïve goodness was not the pure fuel for our warm heart throughout the entire program- the grim failure rate of global health and development initiatives was established and re-established in the short days. The depth of that failure was also accentuated by visits to local hospitals, including the sprawling Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where nearly all of the cohort’s innovations could have made a tangible difference. Despite some of the dour learnings from the workshop, there was also a distinct understanding of our goals and pragmatic ways to reach them.  That global health insight is much rarer to find when talking to traditional healthcare groups in the United States.

Carolyn Yarina, Sisu's CEO, demonstrating an earlier prototype of the Hemafuse with Queen Elizabeth Hospital's surgical department, including Dr. Frank Taulo.

Carolyn Yarina, Sisu's CEO, demonstrating an earlier prototype of the Hemafuse with Queen Elizabeth Hospital's surgical department, including Dr. Frank Taulo.

The Malawi trip also lent to great connections for a clinical pilot we want to pursue later this year. We were able to make valuable connections with global health PI greats like Dr. Cyril Goddia, a past innovator with Gradian Health’s UAM inventor, Dr. Paul Fenton, and several other global health surgical devices. The Malawian Blood Transfusion Service also offered us a warm welcome and potentially helped to pave the way for doing a clinical pilot in Malawi later this year.

Katherine Kirsch, Sisu's CMO, with Dr. Cyril Goddia, Anesthesiologist and professor at the College of Medicine, at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. 

Katherine Kirsch, Sisu's CMO, with Dr. Cyril Goddia, Anesthesiologist and professor at the College of Medicine, at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. 

They also described some of the challenges that a particular religious group faces with each surgery: Jehovah’s Witnesses. From their religious view, blood transfusion from one patient to another is viewed as unhealthy and have seen blood conservation efforts to “to benefit all in the community… [by avoiding] blood-transfusion risks, such as blood-borne diseases, immune-system reactions, and human errors”. These connections (back to the US, actually) demonstrate the importance of being on the ground- to understand the outside forces that affect health institutions here in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Upon our return to the States, and once we are reunited in our new location in Baltimore, we look forward to contacting groups like these for strategic partnerships. Wish us luck in Zimbabwe as we meet up with Dr. Tinashe Gede and his colleagues at Parirenyatwa and Harare Central Hospital to demonstrate the Hemafuse in a simulation!