MISSION JAMAICA 2009
Today I am enjoying fall here in Indiana and reflecting on my three weeks in Jamaica. Words that come to mind are inspirational, uplifting and emotional. My mission work was very rewarding. The team of nurses I was privileged to have with me on this mission were hard workers and wonderful people. The people of Jamaica make all the work leading up to the mission worth while! The mission work is easy compared to the work packing and clearing customs.
Our arrival to Mo Bay Sangster was safe and uneventful. Customs always proves to be challenging for me. When the first part of the group cleared customs, it went fairly well except my lists from Ministry of Health were missing. All my twenty two bags had to detained for pick up the next day when the last part of the team arrived. Both days I spent six hours or so in customs. Assisting the team in clearing luggage, having my supply bags all detained, returning to clear mine and clear the rest of the team proved to be exhausting. My husband completely understands now when I talk about my experiences in customs! He was stuck there with me the entire time. However, that first day of clinics melted away any hostility and frustration I had formed in my mind!
The MISSION JAMAICA team left Mo Bay for Portland in Port Antonio on September the 3, 2009. Long drive. Cramped space. About fifty bags of supplies and then personal bags, ten people and two drivers in two buses. Many bonds were formed that day! We arrived at Tim Bamboo about 1030pm. There was a little confusion over rooms but once rooms assigned we gathered all the supply bags in a huge main room and sorted out the needed supplies for the next two days of clinic. We placed orders for breakfast the next morning. Personally my bed was hard as concrete, the air did not put out cold air but air was moving and the shower had a trickle. My poor husband was miserable but he survived. Others had working air conditioners and softer beds but all in all it was a good stay at Tim Bamboo.
Clinic Day I (09/04/09). The team arrived at the Portland Infirmary. We unpacked our supplies and set up screening stations to complete cholesterols, blood sugars, blood pressures, and fit residents for reading glasses. Ambulatory patients came to stations and two teams were sent to the bed fast residents. The team visited with residents and completed screenings. I completed a hand full of physicals. I was disappointed that I could not get more physicals completed. There was some trouble shooting that had to be completed and dynamics unique to this setting that had to be addressed decreasing the time I had to complete physicals on residents. Once everything was up and running smoothly, we accomplished our goals. It was hot. The team was clearly in need of hydration and rest by early after noon. Adjusting to the climate and temperatures was a major factor as well as many new team members were adjusting to the setting and the residents. This infirmary is located in a very poor area and operates amazingly with the funds they have. Dr. Paul Rhodes was our supervising physician along with Dr Jeremy Knight. I could not have completed this portion of the mission without Dr Rhodes kind assistance and guidance. He was instrumental in the team coming to this area. He was a very kind and humble man. Tentative to the teams every need! He was present at most all times and he was always available by phone. He invited the team to his property GREAT HUTS for dinner and to experience the wonderful beach he has on the property. It was amazing! Dinner was wonderful! The team ordered breakfast for the next day at Tim Bamboo. The team refilled supplies and went to bed and slept well!!!
Clinic Day 2 (09/05/09) The team was split into two groups today. Half went to the Infirmary to finish screenings on the residents and the other half went to the Rehab center or the homeless shelter. The infirmary was finished fairly quickly. I played some dominoes with some of the residents and got the others involved also! Dominoes is fun. The loca ls love to play. Nothing like the sound of dominoes hitting the table during an emotionally packed game!!! We packed up and said goodbye to residents and staff at the Infirmary and headed to the homeless shelter. The shelter was in a beautiful location and was clean. The facility had only mattresses and bare essentials. No kitchen. We did not see any food. There was construction in progress on the building. Dr Rhodes said there were about ten residents. Each individual had their own story to tell. One gentleman shared his story about being in New York City and being shot. He had spinal injuries and was told he would never walk again. He was walking with the aid of a crutch. He truly had an amazing story. Before I left Jamaica Dr. Rhodes was driving him to Ochi to meet his mother. She was port ing on a cruise ship that day. Another gentleman had elephantiasis. He was not so willing to share a lot but he allowed us all to see his leg. It was my first time to actually see a case. I felt much compassion and sympathy for this homeless man. Dr. Rhodes shared that he wanted the leg off now. Dr. Rhodes was looking into getting that done for him. My prayers are with him in his life journey. I think of him often now and wonder if he will get his wish and get the leg removed. How will he walk and get around and who will help him recover? It is sad and heart wrenching. Dr. Rhodes went into town and rounded some residents for us to screen. We finished up a little early this day. I felt the team had been exposed to enough and decided to reward them with a quick stop at Frenchman’s Cove Beach. It was amazing. We relaxed, swam and body surfed the waves. The water was great! It was a perfect end to the short time we had in Portland. We returned to Tim Bamboo, showered, loaded into the buses to head for our next destination, Galina Breeze in St. Maria. On minor detail, packing all those bags is a fine art and I need to learn to let the drivers do their job! I am learning! It is an art to get them all packed!
We arrived safely at ACE Galina Breeze and dinner was waiting on us. My husband and I were treated to a lovely ocean front view room. Galina Breeze was outstanding! The grounds are lovely, the staff was excellent and the food was amazing! The honey from GB is wonderful also! The pool, the rooms, the food, the dining room, everything there was exceptional! Breakfast was wonderful and at 1030 am on 09/06/09 we packed back into our bus es with our faithful drivers for the drive to our final destination, Negril.
The team had earned the right to have some cultural enlightenment. We stopped at Dunn’s River Falls and then went to Mystique Mountain. Great times and beautiful pictures! Great relaxation for work well done. We packed into the buses again for the drive to Negril and the Negril Beach Club Condo’s. Long drive, but so worth it! So good to see everyone at the NBCC’s. Feels like home to be there! Checked in, then off to Chicken Lavish for dominoes and dinner. Doc was anxiously awaiting our arrival and had the dominoes ready! The food and service at Chicken Lavish is outstanding! The domino play, well, Doc says I am blind! I am not blind, I let him win!!!
09/07/09 FREE DAY and Organize day.
Clinic Day (09/08/09) Today the entire team went to Jerusalem Mountain Clinic. This clinic is my favorite place. I fell in love with Jamaica, the patients and the staff at this clinic in 2000. This clinic is staffed once monthly. Nine of us converged on this poor small rural clinic. The clinic had no current this day. To run our machines we needed current. It took nearly two hours to get cords and a neighbor that had current willing to share and get set up to start the cholesterol and blood sugar screenings. When it worked, it was grand and the patients were very grateful for the screening tests. In the mid afternoon a bad storm blew in up in the mountains where the clinic is located. Everol our driver was dutifully watching us. As the winds picked up and the rain began he came to me and said it is hurricane season and you need to finish quickly. These storms can get bad quickly, Everol said. So we put a trash bag over the machine and kept working until the down pour was so intense we had to quit! We packed up and left for the day. The skies opened and unleashed some torrential rain and winds. We were nearly complete in checking all those patients waiting. Karie had completed her STD talk and we passed out condoms with education attached to them. Kim S. had done her choking/CPR instruction and demonstration. Both talks were well received. The condoms are always a hot item! We capitalized on that high demand for condoms to get the STD awareness and education to the patients at the clinic and even those that came for the free items! My love and admirati on for the patients in this area and the staff that cares for them is never ending. Some people walk for hours to be seen at this clinic. Some come to socialize and some come just to see the nurses from America. It is a wonderful place to see real Jamaica and its beauty and wonderful Jamaican people.
Clinic day 09/09/09 The team divided into two groups today. Three nurses stayed at the condos and did clinic for the resort workers. I left and took the five new team members to Savanna La Mar for the hospital tour and the infirmary tour. No matter how well I tried to prepare them, there are not proper words or enough I can say to prepare them for the tour. I am sure they will tell you if you asked them, I sent them many emails. My efforts to prepare them for the culture, the people, and any words of wisdom overloaded them I am afraid. We were greeted by Dr Perrins. He is the chief medical CEO. I may not have his title correct but he was excellent. He is Jamaican born, practiced in America and returned because he felt a “calling” to his people and country. He had never been to Sav but ended up at this hospital. He was informative. He was intelligent and had some lofty goals for the Sav Hospital. I was very impressed. He was communicative to our group and did an excellent tour of the facilities. I expressed to him I could see some improvements and changes at Sav Hospital since last years visit. I feel the team nurses enjoyed the hospital tour. The memories formed on this tour will help them in their careers as professional nurses as well as impacting them as individuals. When we returned to Negril we started doing health screening and the other part of the team bega n organizing supplies for the next clinic day.
Clinic day 09/10/09 Today we went to Belmount in Whitehouse, to a beautiful seaside church that our driver Everol is a member of the congregation. We set and up people began to come for their screenings. At this screening we had several blood sugars that were over 300 and some high total cholesterols. I did a lot of teaching as did the other team members. Because of the high values and the number of patients that were Dr Lawrences I finally found his office phone and made contact. He was very nice gentleman and worked with me to see that these people got the medications they needed and the follow up care. I had to take him the papers we use for his signature to comply with MOH and Dr Stennetts requests. He was a very nice young Jamaican doctor. He was passionate about his work and his patients. I did return to his office and donated some of our supplies for his patients.
Clinic Day 09/11/09 Today we all worked at Grange Hill Clinic. This is the clinic FOJ and the rotary members and I painted in April. The paint job was still looking mighty fine and the clinic looked very clean. We set up for our screenings and reading glass distribution and had a wonderful clinic day. It is always good to return to places that welcome you with open arms!
Clinic day 09/13/09 Today we returned to Dellion BigWoods Church in Darliston. This is the church of one of the drivers. Pastor Gardon introduced the team and asked us to speak in front of the congregation. Kim S. did her choking education for the congregation. Karie set up her STD talk and board at the back of the church. It was well attended and again the free condoms at the end of the talk are always a big hit! There were three screening stations. I had the privilege of being at the reading glass station. I had conversations with the most wonderful people and each person was so thankful. The church had lunch for us. We ate before we left to go to the Clifton Boys Home or the Darliston Orphanage.
I had the privilege of spending some time with a young man that we met last year. This child took our cameras last year and snapped photos like a professional. This year he watched me with my camera. After all the disposables were gone and he was using one of the nurses point and shoot cameras I asked him if he would like to try mine. His eyes lit up like candles! I made him put the strap around his neck and I explained the camera to him. How to zoom, etc. He started taking pictures. It was amazing how quickly he caught on and how he protected my pride and joy (my camera!). He enjoyed taking pictures so much and he was amazed when he saw the difference in the quality and abilities of the different cameras! It was an awesome experience to give a child the gift of photography, even if short lived. He is so enthusiastic and has such a natural talent for photographing. We departed with full bellies to the orphanage.
On arrival Mr. McDonald gathered the boys that were there, all playing outside. He rang the bell. Reminded me of the old days when we visited my great grand parents and she would ring the bell when dinner was ready. That bell sound echoed and brought back many memories for me. The boys all gathered in the small family room of this small house where they reside. I believe there are thirty three boys there at this time. None had shoes on; maybe one had some water shoes. They all found a place to sit while Karie gave her STD talk and then Kim S. did her choking talk and demonstration. Some of the children wanted to practice with the manikins. The children gained some valuable knowledge and the team had great times. We handed out toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss. I educated them on dental hygiene and swine flu and discussed some basic first aid for them. The boys sang us a couple songs. Some of the team exchanged emails and addresses with residents at the orphanage. Who knows, maybe some long term friendships will develop from this visit. We also left three bags of clothes and shoes at the orphanage. It was a short but wonderful sharing experience. I look forward to returning to the home.
Patients seen on Clinic days:
Infirmary in Portland: 65
Homeless Shelter: 13
Jerusalem Mountain: 66
Belmont Church (Everol’s Church): 64
Grange Hill Clinic: 73
Dellion Big Woods Church: 68
Jerusalem Mountain School: 34
In summary Mission Jamaica was successful in screening many Jamaicans. We identified many elevated blood glucoses and blood pressures and referred them to the local doctors or clinic. There were some elevated total cholesterols. We distributed over 500 pairs of reading glasses and 3000 condoms. Map International packages were used for medical supplies at all clinics we operated and participated in. We delivered clothing and shoes to homeless shelter and orphanage. Medical supplies were donated to Savanna La Mar Hospital, Dr Lawrence, Dr. Ganga Reddy, Grange Hill Clinic, Nurse Jones, and the Infirmaries in Portland and Savanna La Mar. The team of nurses learned to cope with heat, working conditions they are not used to in their normal working environments, learned to work with new individuals in challenging circumstances, toured Sav hospital and two infirmaries, learned to communicate with Jamaican patients and medical staff, experienced the culture of Jamaica and traveled to several different areas in the wonderful country of Jamaica.
The entire MISSION JAMAICA team wishes to thank all of its donors and supporters!
A special thanks to Inverness Medical for the generous support of our mission!
We also would like to thank our friends and families that support us in their own ways while we are collecting, packing, preparing and completing our mission work.
If not for each of you this mission would not be possible!
GOD BLESS YOU ALL and thank you.