Albanians Fighting Cancer (AFC) is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about cancer prevention treatment within the community in Boston, Massachusetts and also supports hospitals in Albania.
Roberta Nashi, the Founder and President of Albanians Fighting Cancer, started the organization in 2019 when her sister was diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to build awareness, promote prevention, and help others in the Albanian-American community navigate the complex healthcare system here in the United States.
During the pandemic, doctors in Albania wrote to Roberta, explaining their challenges due to hospitals being underfunded and lacking basic medical equipment. She looked into US-based humanitarian organizations; out of the 10 she wrote to, only MedWish responded. Roberta has been working with Jacob Dzierwa, the International Programs Coordinator at MedWish, who has been very helpful in connecting her with needed supplies.
By partnering with MedWish, AFC sent protective gear, disinfectants, O2 masks, a CPAP machine, and more to assist with COVID-19. These supplies arrived in advance of the Albanian government’s contract supplies. MedWish also sent other medical supplies, including an EKG machine, endoscopic instruments, surgical equipment, and more resources, so doctors in Albania can perform diagnostics, procedures, and surgeries they were unable to do before.
Earlier this year, a woman in Korca, Albania needed medical attention quickly. The doctors were able to prepare the surgical room and operate to save her life with the instruments provided by MedWish. If they could not treat her there and needed to send her to another facility, it would have been too late.
“Even though the devices are pre-owned, they’re fully functional and we are conscious that our unit could not get such supplies from the government,” says Samuel Kristo, the Chief of the Pulmonary Unit in the Korca Hospital. “We feel very thankful and with your help and support we are saving people’s lives.”
Ervis Agastra is a general surgeon at the regional hospital of Korca. With only a few general surgeons on staff, they work 24-hour shifts and experience longer operating room hours and emergency procedures. Ervis explains that they are able to shorten the length of surgeries and decrease trauma to tissues and exposure to contamination with supplies from MedWish.
Ervis had a 59-year-old patient who suffered from rectal cancer. A long waiting list at the University Hospital in Tirana and fear led him to delay surgery. The patient came to Korca in the emergency ward with serious anemia due to a hemorrhage from the malignant mass and was hospitalized and prepared for surgery.
“Several difficulties caused the operation to be more difficult than expected. Fortunately, we could use the ligatures and stapler provided by Medwish, which eliminated the problem of the narrow pelvis and allowed us to close the very low rectal stump,” says Ervis. “He is on a good postoperative course and now is continuing oncological therapy. This equipment is not available in Albania so we are very thankful to have the help we receive from this collaboration.”
Together, AFC and MedWish are able to make an impact on a national and global scale.