eastern caribbean travel, human medicine, peace corps response

Beyond Impressive

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.

map of caribbean

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.

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.

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

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

view of pharmacy from ER waiting area

open air, rugged cafeteria area off the East Wing

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:

-David: http://kuribbean.blogspot.com/

-Bash: http://www.bashhalow.blogspot.com/

-Kate: https://everywhereismydestination.wordpress.com/

-Chris: https://cannitopeacecorps.wordpress.com/

-Shelby: https://shelbyec.wordpress.com/

-Anna: https://hobbsseehobbsdo.wordpress.com/

-Mary: http://www.theknockabout.org/

-Alan: http://www.pcinec.net/

-Erin: http://pceasterncaribbean.blogspot.com/2015/07/

~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 

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Peace Corps, peace corps response

Go ahead…laugh

Friends.  Bus.  Independent.  Cooking.  Laughing.  Those words could easily sum up my days.  Fortunately, up to this point, I have been getting a ride to the hospital with a colleague, Dylan, even though I know I need to learn how to catch the bus.  I figured after a full day at work on Wednesday, I’d brave the adventure of taking the bus home for the first time.  Initially, it is nerve wracking; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  As I strolled out of the hospital and down the steps, I was greeted by this cutie.

the sweetheart who greeted me AND walked me all the way to the bus at work.

My new friend at work

Up until now, I haven’t gotten close to any of the dogs that I’ve seen but this little girl really liked me talking to her and she even let me pet her a few times.  She was quite curious of me as I crouched down in the parking lot to change into my flip flops.  I loved her right away. Together we trekked around the George Odlum Stadium.  We even played a little; it was awesome.  Can you believe she walked me the entire way!?  No kidding.   I tried giving her water but she didn’t grasp the concept of drinking from my hand.  As I approached the street I got very concerned for her.  I really didn’t want her to cross the road with me but she refused to stay.  It was so darn sweet.  Was she sent to look after me?  She stayed with me until the bus came which was rather quick.  I swear, if she could’ve, and I had invited, I think she would’ve jumped in the bus after me.  It broke my heart really.  As you can imagine she’s a stray.  I simply wanted to scoop her up.  Tears threatened as we left her; I watched nervously as I silently encouraged her to make it to safety.  Leaving her brought my Springaling to mind…gosh I miss her.

These are what our buses look like.  I take two to get to work or home.  Most are identified with a green plate with an M on it.  Others have an H and are black.

This is a typical minibus.  I take 2-4 each day. Most are identified by a green plate with an M on it. Others have an H and are black.

Knowing where to get off in  Vieux-Fort is easy.  It took two tries to find my next bus going to Augier. Here you have to wait until the bus is full, 15 people, before it starts the journey. Patience is a must.   Quiet panic rushed through me a couple times when I didn’t recognize the surroundings.  I sat back, told myself this is all part of the adventure.  Honestly, if I had missed my stop then I’d just get off somewhere and call Dylan to come get me.  I had already prepped him if I wasn’t home by a certain time to come looking for me, lol.  Much to my relief, I recognized my stop.  Bus stops aren’t too formal, they kind of exist but not really.  The art is all in how you yell “Stop!”  $3.20 EC gets me home sweet home.

apartment compound

apartment compound

Feeling like a big girl for finding my way home I felt ready to tackle dinner.  Yup, I dug in to make my first Caribbean meal.  So, I broke out the Bread Fruit, Plantains and chicken.  I swear, the bread fruit was going to do me in.  First I tried boiling it.  Then I changed my mind midway because of what I read in my Peace Corps issued cookbook.  To be a fly on the wall watching me not only attempt to light the stove but to then pull the semi boiled food out so I could peel it…simply priceless.  Did I mention it took me 12 matches to light the stove?  Yes, 12!  In the moment I was cursing because the matches wouldn’t stay lit or the gas wasn’t on or the match burned to0 low for my comfort or…well…you get the picture.  It was a sweat producing event, lol.  Ultimately, after I peeled it, I boiled it then fried it and sprinkled salt.

Peeling Bread Fruit

Peeling Bread Fruit

I went on to prepare the Plantains.  As I was cooking, I thought to myself that they didn’t look like my host moms.  Ah, I just chocked it up to my first time cooking them.  Yeah, well, turns out I made some mighty fine BANANAS!!!  I crack me up.  I didn’t know it until the next day when I made the “same” dinner again but this time the Plantains color and consistency were very different.  Regardless, it was all delicious.

My first delicious, home made meal:  chicken, fried Plantains, and Bread Fruit.

First home made meal: chicken, fried Plantains, and Bread Fruit.

 

 

 

Stay tuned…because I’m not sitting on the sidelines of life.

~Brie Messier, MBA

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