Feature Story: Responding to Chile's 2010 Earthquake
On the morning of February 27, 2010, Chileans awoke to one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. The 8.8 magnitude quake was centered in the southern coast but radiated throughout the country, causing extensive destruction and dangerous conditions. At Genzyme, we immediately thought of our colleagues at our 12-person office in the capital city of Santiago. That team, however, had other things on their mind. Although they felt the quake's shock and spent days without electricity or phones, our Santiago employees' top concern was for the 40+ patients throughout Chile who rely on our enzyme replacement therapies. Eight of those patients live near Concepción, a city close to the earthquake's epicenter which was catastrophically damaged.
Within 48 hours, we knew that all 12 of our employees and their immediate families were safe, but for days after, the damage to communications made it difficult to find out the status of patients throughout the country.”
The small, close-knit nature of our Chile office means that the employees know most of these patients personally. They spent two weeks laboriously tracking down each and every patient - and finally confirming that all had survived. However, many of their homes and towns had been destroyed. And with roads and hospitals damaged and medical professionals focused on earthquake victims, many of these patients were facing new difficulties with access to their treatment.
Genzyme employees immediately mobilized, gathering boxes of food and water, basic medicines, even diapers and toys. They drove the treacherous 300+ miles from Santiago to the Concepción area to hand-deliver supplies to many patients. Meanwhile, Genzyme worked with local hospitals to ensure they had a safe product supply and adequate equipment, so most patients were able to resume their enzyme infusions after only missing one or two treatments.
A few weeks later, with the immediate urgent patient needs addressed and the local office situation stabilized, Genzyme turned to the bigger picture. Disaster relief has always been one focus of our philanthropic activities, and the company designated $100,000 over 4 years to Chile's post-earthquake rebuilding efforts. The process of deciding how to put the corporate gift to use involved swift, decisive efforts that perfectly reflect our hands-on, entrepreneurial culture.
A charitable committee with members from throughout Genzyme began brainstorming how to create an appropriate donation plan that would have meaningful local impact. They reached out to our General Manager in Chile, who immediately suggested building on an existing partnership between Genzyme and Concepción's university and health service. The team on the ground in Chile quickly outlined a plan focused on improving Chile's capacities to treat renal and lysosomal storage disorder (LSD) patients. Within just ten days of the initial discussion, the plan was agreed upon and put into motion.
Today, these efforts are underway. Genzyme is donating medical equipment for LSD treatment, as well as new filtration systems for the hospital's dialysis center. Over subsequent years, money will go toward training and development for key diagnostic and screening capabilities to help better identify and more promptly treat patients in the region.