I’m struggling to find my voice, the right voice in order to tell the story of St. Jude Hospital (SJH). A voice that is honest yet sensitive. It is a special story. One that I couldn’t have imagined before arriving on island. When I read the job description for SJH I knew it was the right fit. I never even looked at another listing. It was St. Jude or nothing. The location was insignificant. The pull was too strong. Once I arrived, the CEO, Dr. Chierry Poyotte, told me he envisioned me coming to them. Me.
I’ll admit I originally thought my St. Jude was the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital based in the US. It isn’t.
Rising from the Ashes is exactly what St. Jude Hospital was forced to do when its hospital, originally located in Augier, was destroyed by a raging fire on Sept 9, 2009. A team of nearly 350 provide primary, specialty and emergency medical care to the southern region of the country which comprises roughly 68,0000 people. To survive, to be displaced, to reorganize, and to make a stadium work as a hospital is beyond impressive. There aren’t many organizations that can say they have endured and done what the St. Jude Hospital team has accomplished.
Vieux-Fort (VF) is the town and Augier is community within VF.
The stadium I speak of is George Odlum located in Vieux-Fort. St. Jude literally took a sports stadium and turned it into a temporary hospital, albeit it’s been 6 yrs, so it could carry on with its mission.
This year, on the anniversary of the fire, the CEO, Public Relations, and I went around the hospital meeting with every department impromptu to thank them for their hard work through the years. We acknowledged the “stadium fatigue” that is consuming them. We encouraged them in this final push before we get to our new hospital…don’t give up…the light is at the end of the tunnel.. Even though we see the light, the feeling on the street is skepticism about the new hospital coming to fruition. The people of St. Lucia are tired of hearing “next year.” They don’t understand why it’s taking so long.
15 acre compound that houses the new St. Jude Hospital. This is the light at the end of the tunnel.
There are things that I’ve seen here that would never fly in a human or the best veterinary hospitals in the US. The hard reality is the stadium is crumbling before our eyes. In spite of this, the team pours their blood, sweat and tears into their work to be better every day. It’s beyond tough to achieve best medical standards when there isn’t enough money to fix doors to a medical ward, replace flooring, provide certain tests, or to treat a certain illness. Dirty electricity keeps us from putting in new equipment for fear it will be ruined outright. The main focus though…is that the hospital strives to do right by it’s patients with what they have. It is inspirational!
ER waiting area
The generosity of companies and individuals who donate supplies, money and themselves is the human spirit at it’s finest. It is a long standing tradition and a foundation pillar of St. Jude. During my 85 days thus far I have worked with volunteers comprised of doctors, nurses, educators, and a film maker, from the UK, Canada, and the US. Also, during this time I have had the privilege of participating in small ways with Direct Relief and Americares through deciding what medications we need to how to logistically handle being the hub for distribution of supplies and medications to the 33 health clinics, two poly clinics, and Victoria Hospital which comprise the public medical system. And this is simply the tip of the iceberg.
view of pharmacy from ER waiting area
open air, rugged cafeteria area off the East Wing
I’m honored and grateful to be here. Those of you who have helped me and support me in my service to the Peace Corps and St. Jude Hospital are deeply appreciated. By helping me, you are helping serve SJH and the United States. The next time you go to the doctor, look around and be thankful for all which you have access.
Stay tuned…because I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life.
Other blogs you may be interested in:
~Brie Messier, MBA
Note: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps