Kathleen Hower, Sharing Life-Saving Medical Supplies

Story by Debbi Casini Klein | Audio edited by Louis D’Aria

It was an idea Kathleen Hower and two friends had more than 25 years ago: to gather perfectly viable medical supplies that were no longer needed or used, and get them to hospitals that were in dire need of them, here in Pittsburgh and internationally.

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Kathleen Hower

That was the beginning of Global Links.

“We started Global links back in 1989, three women, we had all traveled extensively” Kathleen said. “We knew medical materials were needed where we had traveled. We all had worked together and knew we could find creative ways to address the needs.”

She began working with health institutions in Pittsburgh, then around the country, to recover materials that are no longer needed and would end up in a landfill. The process grew and grew, and now more than $183 million worth of materials have been distributed to 25 countries.

Kathleen sees the impact as three-fold: It’s a win for the environment, for the hospitals who can put discarded materials to good use and for the people who receive better health care. Some things as simple as a suture have saved so many lives. A good example is a woman from Malawi, Diana.

“Sutures are the stitches to need to have any kind of surgery. Diana was an example in a hospital in Malawi, came in carrying twins. She was in labor and needed to have a C-section, so to save her life and the baby’s life, they had to have sutures on hand to be able to perform a C-section. In order to save her life, and they needed another kind of sutures. So, they had that because Global Links had sent that. We had worked with one of the local hospitals,  Magee Women’s Hospital to provide sutures there.”