Have you ever had a really good idea? I’m talking about one of those ideas that you know could change the way people do business, reform the political process or create world peace?
Or maybe it was just a simple idea that could right a wrong.
Deanna Micheli had one of those ideas.
Back in 1996, Deanna was working as an operating-room nurse at MeritCare. Every day she saw perfectly good medical supplies being wasted. When you are hospitalized, you pay for all of the “free” things the nurses bring you. The toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc., is billed to your insurance company.
Even if you don’t use it, it can’t be passed on to the next patient because that patient would also be paying for it, so the products would end up being paid for twice. To make sure supplies aren’t “re-billed,” they get thrown away. The same thing happens in the operating room with supplies like sutures, gauze and suction tubing.
Deanna was frustrated at seeing all those supplies tossed into the landfill when people in other countries desperately needed that garbage.
It may have been fate that led Deanna to a conference where the speaker addressed the waste issue and challenged the audience to fix the problem.
Deanna took that idea, that challenge to heart.
With the blessing of the hospital and a grant from MeritCare, she and her friends began collecting leftover supplies in a garage to give to medical mission teams. That was the birth of Project Hero.
Eventually, Deanna started getting calls from local agencies saying they had clients who couldn’t afford medical equipment like walkers and wheelchairs. The nurse answered by refocusing Project Hero on both local and global giving.
Today, Project Hero is a nonprofit with a new name, HERO: Healthcare Equipment Recycling Organization. The process is still just as simple. People who have extra medical equipment and supplies give them to HERO, which then redistributes them to people in need locally and around the world. People can also shop at a retail location in Fargo and pay what they can afford.
Deanna is still a volunteer for the organization, though she has handed over the reins to three full-time and two part-time employees.
Just this year, HERO has collected 134,000 pounds of supplies from hospitals and individuals and given away more than 20,000 items locally.
Deanna had no clue how her little idea would grow. There were frustrations along the way, but if she hadn’t taken that first step, if she hadn’t decided to collect leftover surgical packs in a garage instead of allowing them to be thrown away, HERO wouldn’t exist today as a national model for recycling through redistribution.
So how do we know if that little idea floating around in the back of our mind is worth pursuing? As Deanna puts it, “If it’s for the good of others, it’s worth it.”