U.S. military gives medical equipment to Nicaragua

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U.S. servicemembers from Joint Task Force-Bravo departed Leon, Nicaragua, Sept. 13, leaving more than $185,000 worth of medical equipment and supplies for the hospital where people were being treated after an alcohol-poisoning epidemic claimed the lives of more than 45 people and left hundreds more ill. 

A support staff and a three-person medical team, comprised of a family practice physician, preventive medicine specialist and physician's assistant, responded to a request for help from the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua.

A hospital was overwhelmed with people who had been poisoned by a toxic batch of moonshine that was mixed with methanol, an alcohol that can cause blindness, organ damage and death from respiratory failure. 

"Our mission was to go in, assess the situation at the hospital and provide any medical equipment and assistance we could to help save the lives of those who had ingested the moonshine," said Army Maj. Shawn Macleod, the family practice physician on the medical team sent to Nicaragua.

"We did that by donating more than $66,000 worth of medical equipment, supplies, bottled water, and Meals, Ready to Eat. We also medically evacuated three people and have loaned the hospital more than $126,000 worth of medical equipment." 

The major said he and the other two military doctors on this mission also gave the Nicaraguan physicians several pieces of their personally owned medical equipment to assist them as they continue to deal with this crisis. 

The medical supplies donated by the task force included sterile surgical gloves, isopropyl alcohol, padded bed linen, hand sanitizer, gauze, disposable wash cloths, and adhesive surgical tape. 

After accepting the medical equipment and supplies at the airport in Leon, the sub minister of health to Nicaragua thanked the U.S. for its assistance. 

"I would like to say thank you to the U.S. government and the military for helping us," said Israel Konturosky. "I am grateful for all of the people who came here to help and especially for the ventilators because we were able to save the lives of the most critical patients." 

Mr. Konturosky said the equipment and supplies he accepted will be used for the most critical patients and the generosity of the American people is appreciated by him, the government and people of Nicaragua. 

In much the same way, Joint Task Force-Bravo members were grateful for the opportunity to help, said Army Lt. Col. Ernesto Sirvas, Army Forces commander at Soto Cano Air Base and commanding officer of the team sent to Nicaragua. 

"We are very proud to have participated in this effort and to be given the opportunity to help alleviate suffering and save lives in Nicaragua," Colonel Sirvas said. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family members of those who have lost their lives and we pray for speedy recoveries for everyone who was affected by this tragedy."