Old trailer gets new medical mission
By Joanne Gonnerman
What’s the possibility that an old, obsolete trailer formerly used to haul tires from one part of the country to another could find new life as an emergency medical treatment center in a community hit by a disaster?
When Rotarian Tom Kincaid and Fred Wally, a volunteer with the Presbytery of Charlotte Community Disaster Response Team, hooked up on a medical missions trip to Picayune, Miss., in September 2006, an answer to that question rolled into a plan to refurbish a 53-foot abandoned trailer to serve as an Emergency Medical Response Unit for disaster-stricken areas.
Kincaid, a member of the Kannapolis Rotary Club, and Wally, a licensed electrician, pitched the idea to Kannapolis Rotary Club members. And now, nearly two years later, the idea has become the club’s service project for 2008.
“This trailer could touch lives anywhere in the United States,” Kincaid said. “It can be used for any purpose that you need medical exam rooms.”
The Kannapolis Rotary Club and the Presbytery of Charlotte are working together to put the medical response trailer on the road. Modeling Rotary International’s motto of “Service Above Self,” the Kannapolis Rotary Club will fully fund the trailer makeover at a price of about $15,000.
“The magnitude is unbelievable,” Kincaid said of the potential for the project. “It’s such a simple concept. I’m surprised someone else hadn’t thought of it. During a disaster, a blister could become a major, major infection.”
The trailer, which measures 53 feet long by 8 feet wide, will be divided into five separate spaces. A storage area and bath will be located toward the front of the trailer, while two examination rooms and a reception area will take up the rest of the space.
Patients will enter the reception area through a door cut into the trailer’s side. Exam rooms will be located on each side of the reception area with the larger of the two exam rooms located at the very back of the trailer so it’s easier to access with patients on stretchers.
“This will be the first medical response trailer that we built and that will be in our possession in North Carolina,” Wally said of the Presbytery of Charlotte.
“We have shower trailers and other mobile units,” Wally said. “We were looking for someone to fund a medical unit.”
Kannapolis Rotary President Eddie Smith said the club has a history of helping the community by putting into action Rotary International’s mission of “Service Above Self.” When Wally and Kincaid presented the idea for the medical trailer to the club two years ago, the Kannapolis Rotarians knew it would propel the mission of helping others far beyond Cabarrus and Rowan counties.
“This EMRU is going to allow our club the opportunity to provide medical disaster recovery services to other communities in the Charlotte region and in the Southeast United States,” Smith said.
As a result of the project, he said, the Kannapolis Rotary Club was recently asked to serve as the disaster response liaison for Rotary District 7680, which covers 14 North Carolina counties stretching from Cleveland County to Richmond County.
The Kannapolis Rotary Club members held their first trailer workday Aug. 9. They scraped, painted and framed the trailer’s interior walls. More workdays will help get the trailer ready for use by early 2009.
Organizers say donations are needed, including used medical equipment in good condition and new medical supplies.
Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast has provided a used EKG machine and a special examination table for OB/GYN patients. Project leaders say they hope to receive additional exam tables, an ultrasound machine, a pulse oximetry machine, a portable X-ray machine and film and surgical instruments of all kinds, intravenous sets, portable defibrillators, blood pressure cuffs, and medications such as topical antibiotics and salves.
“It’s great that we can take an obsolete item and turn it into something very valuable,” Kincaid said of the trailer. “I’d love to see a fleet of these trailers sitting on a lot somewhere, ready to go.”
The Kannapolis Rotary Emergency Medical Response Unit trailer will be open for the public to see during the Rotary Club’s golf tournament today at The Club at Irish Creek. Proceeds from the golf tournament will be used to complete the trailer.
Companies or individuals wishing to make financial or in-kind donations to the Kannapolis Rotary EMR, may contact club President Eddie Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or project coordinator Tom Kincaid at 704-938-2927.