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CrossLink International Sees $3.5 Million in Medical Supplies Go Up in Smoke

Aired July 3, 2001 - 07:42   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: A humanitarian aid organization is looking at a total loss this morning; $3.5 million in medical supplies bound for missions around the world went up in smoke in a suspicious warehouse fire yesterday in Falls Church, Virginia. Firefighters are investigating.

Dr. Barry Byer is the president of CrossLink International, the nonprofit group that delivers these supplies to some 77 countries.

Good morning, Dr. Byer.

DR. BARRY BYER, PRESIDENT, CROSSLINK INTERNATIONAL: Good morning.

LIN: Have they found the cause of the fire yet?

BYER: No, they haven't.

LIN: And how devastating a loss is this for you? Give us a perspective.

BYER: Well, it's a tremendous loss. We have two warehouses where we stock our medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment. And this is about 50 percent of all the goods that we had stockpiled earmarked for shipment to about 12 different locations in the next month or two.

LIN: So what does this mean for those missions abroad, for these hospital doctors...

BYER: Well...

LIN: ... waiting.

BYER: It's a real heartbreak. I mean, for me personally, I've been on mission trips where we had been undersupplied because our supplies didn't arrive, because the container didn't arrive. And I know what it feels like. And I think that's one of the things that has driven me and others to try to supply people on the mission fields with the critical goods they need to provide services to people that really just don't have basic care. I mean, I...

LIN: Well, when you say "critical," paint us a picture of where these supplies go and why they're so desperately needed.

BYER: Well, to give you an idea, there's a -- there's a Dr. Grishka (ph) in Haiti who reuses things like these. This is a disposable glove. And because of CrossLink, he's able to use gloves that are sterile.

There's a doctor I know in Moscow, Dr. Grischoviz (ph), who used to use gauze pads over again. He would have them sterilized -- or cleaned and then reused, that came out of people's bodies because they just didn't have absorbable materials to use during surgery.

This is just a heartbreak to observe and one of the basic reasons that CrossLink was formed around seven or eight years ago, to try to provide for doctors on the mission field and for doctors and medical groups going on mission trips all over the world.

LIN: So can you make up for this sort of loss in the short term, as these people wait for these supplies?

BYER: Well, we've already had an outpouring in the last 24 hours. But we really need so much more. We need more supplies, more equipment. We really need warehouse space.

As a matter of fact, yesterday, local hospitals in the Washington, D.C. area, in particular Arlington Hospital, their medical staff donated $10,000 to Cross Link. And their administrative staff has committed more goods.

Many area hospitals in Northern Virginia -- and, really, in other parts of the United States -- have collected materials from what's called the back tables in the operating rooms. Things that are perfectly sterile aren't used during a particular surgery. And instead of throwing them into their trash and then into landfill, they're packaged and then delivered to CrossLink .

LIN: Right.

BYER: We inventory these items and send them out all over the world.

LIN: Well, it sounds like the medical community is trying to come forward and come together to help you.

Is there anything about the profile of your organization that, I don't know, might have contributed to the cause of this fire, if in fact it is suspicious? And it -- and it may be declared arson.

BYER: I don't think so. I think that -- there's nothing I know that would make us think that. I mean, we've had lots of support from the community, from organizations all over the United States. And none of us are really suspecting anything like that.

LIN: All right. Well, Dr. Byer, hopefully you can recoup and recoup quickly for those folks who are waiting for much-needed help.

BYER: Well, thank you. LIN: Thanks for joining us this morning.

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