A mission of mercy to Romania Lawyer delivers aid to hospitals, orphans

July 19, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Two years ago, Americans were horrified by pictures of sick and neglected babies lying abandoned in hospitals and orphanages in Romania.

Today little has changed, and the brief flurry of Western aid has dwindled, said Karen Kiefer, a Severna Park lawyer who recently returned from the former Communist country.

While on her trip to Bucharest and Transylvania, she delivered nearly 14 boxes of medical equipment, supplies and clothing to Romanian hospitals and an orphanage. The medical supplies were donated by Bon Secours Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center. The clothing was donated by Severna Park residents.

The goods were packaged by Jack Slagle, owner of Parcel Plus in Severna Park, and shipped by United Parcel Service at no cost.

Ms. Kiefer, who frequently travels to Eastern Europe to arrange overseas adoptions and negotiate business deals, said the aid was the result of almost casual conversations she had with friends, including those who worked at the hospitals. She mentioned that she would be making a trip to Bucharest and offered to take anything they wanted to donate.

Soon, boxes of materials began to pile up in her hallway. Vincent Iatesta, an Annapolis accountant, offered to help Ms. Kiefer deliver the 1,000 pounds of supplies.

To prevent the goods from falling into the hands of black marketeers, Ms. Kiefer accompanied the boxes to the Steavea Maternity Hospital and Orphanage No. 1 in Bucharest and the Sighisoara Hospital in Transylvania.

"They welcomed us with open arms," she said. "They're so grateful for what we send."

Conditions in the hospitals are so poor that rubber gloves are washed and laid to dry on radiators. Hypodermic needles are reused, even at the risk of spreading hepatitis and AIDS.

Ms. Kiefer brought back pictures of hospital nurseries where children lay in rows of cribs. She said she saw more abandoned babies this time than on previous visits, an indication that life in the country has not improved.

Because of the negative publicity, the country has tried to curtail overseas adoptions, and the chances of adoption are slim for most of the children.

"They just lie in these cribs," she said.

Already she is collecting more supplies to take to Romania the next time she goes.

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