A series of huge explosions set off by chemical pipeline leaks ripped through the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung on the evening of July 31, 2014, killing 25 people and injured more than 300. Among the scores of injured were patients in the Burn Center at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, some with third-degree burns over 60% of their bodies. The facility, which normally treats only two or three intensive-care patients at a time, was equipped with just a single clinical platform for accurately monitoring a patient’s physiological (hemodynamic) status.
Plastic surgeon Johnson Chia-Shen Yang, MD, FACS, chief of the Burn Center, and his team faced a dire emergency, with lives in the balance. He contacted the Edwards Lifesciences office in Taipei.
“Our corporate culture is that patients come first,” says Peter Chu, the Edwards country manager for Taiwan and Hong Kong. Without hesitation, the company immediately dispatched three units of its innovative monitoring equipment to Kaohsiung. One of its sales representatives volunteered to remain in the south to train doctors at Kaohsiung Chang Gung in use of the monitors.
The innovative devices made all the difference. “Fluid resuscitation is critical for major burn patients to replace the water that escaped from blood vessels after burn injuries,” explains Dr. Yang. Under-resuscitation can lead to a shut-down in kidney function or cause pulmonary edema, both fatal conditions. The state-of-the-art TPTD (Trans Pulmonary Thermodilution) technology provided by Edwards on loan for the duration of the emergency ensured that the patients received just the right amount of fluid, keeping them safe while speeding their recovery and enabling them to return to normal lives faster.
Afterwards Edwards invited Dr. Yang to share his clinical experience using the monitoring devices at a surgical congress in Taipei. One of the attendees, Dr. Chiao Hao-Yu of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Taipei’s Tri-Service General Hospital, soon encountered the need to make use of the technology when another disaster struck on June 27, 2015. A dust explosion at the Formosa Fun Coast water park set off by flammable color powder had caused at least 15 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Using hemodynamic monitors, Dr. Chiao and his Tri-Service team successfully treated 23 major burn patients in the intensive care units.
The experience and protocol were published earlier this year by Dr. Chiao Hao-Yu help surgeons and Edwards’ clinical education specialists throughout the Asia Pacific region provide advanced care in critical burn cases. The company also prepared a professional video about the Kaohsiung case, not for commercial use in promoting its products but rather to emphasize its patient-centric culture.
Citing the Edwards credo – “Helping Patients is Our Life’s Work, and life is now” – Peter Chu points to the two incidents in Taiwan as striking examples of how the company puts its philosophy into action. Another example was Edwards’ co-sponsorship in May last year of the first U.S.-Taiwan International Patient Day in cooperation with AmCham Taipei and the American Institute in Taiwan. The company also devotes considerable resources to training local surgeons in the use of new cardiovascular technology so that Taiwan patients can benefit from the latest treatments.
Currently celebrating its 60th anniversary, the company – originally called Edwards Laboratories – was founded in 1958 by inventor and visionary Miles “Lowell” Edwards. It was later part of American Hospital Supply and then Baxter International, before being spun off as Edwards Lifesciences in 2000. The specialty of the Irvine, California-based company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, is artificial heart valves and other medical equipment for fighting cardiovascular disease. Dedicated to technological innovation, it annually spends a high 16% of revenue on R&D.
Edwards’ Taiwan office was established in 2000. In view of the Taiwan teams’ excellence in implementing the corporate credo as well as local market development, for the past three years the Taiwan office has been named the top performer among the company’s 100 branches around the world.
The Taiwan operation has also been active in carrying out Corporate Social Responsibility activities for four consecutive years in partnership with the Chung Yi Social Welfare Foundation, which operates a children’s home, offers adoption services, and provides other services for orphaned and underprivileged children.
As Taiwan rapidly approaches the status of a super-aged population requiring more attention to healthcare, Edwards is planning to help more patients and develop talent in this market by investing more in Taiwan. “We’re eager to bring our innovative technologies into the Taiwan market as early as we can,” says Chu. “We believe Taiwan has a lot of talent, but the challenge will be finding people who are just the right fit for the Edwards culture in terms of their passion and dedication in helping patients.”