Monday, April 14, 2014

Jamaica: The Medical Clinic

So, I'm back from Jamaica, and as I'm all ready to sit down and write some totally amazing, totally inspiring, blog posts about my work there - the unthinkable happened.

As I was uploading my photos from the trip - all 872 of them, by the way - my laptop decided to go into cardiac arrest. It basically crapped out.


Which, of course, meant that now, I, myself, went into cardiac arrest, as one is prone to do when faced with the Blue Screen of Death on one's laptop.

I immediately rushed it to the nearest "hospital", where it was diagnosed with a serious - but NOT terminal, thank God - disease…that a little bit of time, effort and new parts…would be as good as new. And thank goodness I had insurance, as this little hospital stay would have cost me over $700. Gah.

The good news is that my laptop is now home from the Apple hospital.

The bad news is that I now have to attempt to re-upload all my pics, and go back to square one on writing amazing and inspiring blog posts about my trip - more than two weeks out.


Oh well.

So…let's start at the very beginning…a very good place to start…at least according to Julie Andrews, aka "Maria", in "The Sound of Music."

So…I went to Jamaica for about a week or so…in late March. It was a WORK trip, so it's not like we had fun or anything.


Not at all.


We went to work in a Methodist medical clinic in Falmouth, Jamaica. Falmouth is a small town on the north side of Jamaica, about an hour east of Montego Bay - which is where we fly in/out of.

The clinic was started in 1990, when a doctor and his wife first began taking medical teams to the Methodist church there. Initially, they provided free - or low cost - treatment in the rooms of the church, but eventually, a small clinic was built about a block away from the church.

The clinic is surrounded by a covered porch - with benches - that are deceivingly empty in the above picture. The people of Jamaica - somehow, some way - get wind of the fact that a medical/dental team is in town…and they will begin arriving to fill up those benches hours before we will open. We begin work every day at 8:00 am, and some people will come down from the surrounding hills and mountainside as early as 5:00 am…they want to be "first" in line, and be assured that they will be seen that day. We don't take appointments. It is first come, first serve…and it can be a little overwhelming, walking into the clinic the first morning, to see a hundred or so men, women and children, all sitting patiently on the front porch, waiting for us to arrive.

I worked with these lovely ladies…the dental team…but more about that in a later post!!!

Inside the clinic, the patient will check in with the ladies in the file room…the patient's file is pulled, and the ladies (local Jamaican women, hired by the Methodist church) will collect the fees from the patient, based on their financial situation.

The fees vary…keep in mind that this is in Jamaican dollars, so divide everything by 100…which is the approximate exchange rate at the moment.

Once they've paid, the patients are asked to take a seat in this same room - which doubles as a waiting room. This room is NOT air-conditioned…the temperatures can be brutal, especially when in close quarters. And here, the patients will wait…and wait…for up to a couple of hours, sometimes, if we are busy in the back with other patients.

No a/c. No televisions to keep them entertained. Heck, not even magazines on little tables to read.

I'm never going to complain again about waiting in a doctor's office back home. Ever.

Of course, while they're waiting, they can take time to read THIS sign, which is posted on the door into the actual clinic. Yowza. That has to make them feel all comfortable as they're about to head in to see the doctor, right??!!

Soon, one of the nursing students will step outside to the waiting room and bring in the next patient, to our "Intake" area. For this particular trip, we had two nurses, who would write down the patient's chief complaint, as well as obtain vitals from them, such as height, weight, and blood pressure. I once worked here a few years ago, and it was really interesting - although I had a difficult time, sometimes, understanding the Jamaican accent.

There are three medical exam rooms available, as well as a small dental room with two exam chairs. For this particular trip, we had three medical doctors - so all medical rooms were busy. We also had a dentist and a dental hygienist, so our dental clinic was busy, as well:

The dental clinic

Exam Room #1

Exam Room #2

Exam Room #3

If the patient is need of medication (antibiotics, diabetes medication, etc), we have a small pharmacy within the clinic. We are fortunate to bring down a pharmacist with us who can dispense whatever the doctor/dentist prescribes:

Please note that we are NOT open for business in the above picture…this was taken when we were setting things up before we opened. For a normal business day, we'd be dressed in our medical scrubs.

So…that's the clinic. Very basic. Very crude. Loaded with lots and lots of junk, supplies and unknown objects brought down by previous medical mission teams. We try to clean it out as best we can when we visit, but more often than not, our time is spent seeing patients - which is as it should be - rather than cleaning and organizing. We always say we're going to come down and spend 2-3 days doing nothing but organizing, but it never happens. There's just too much of a need elsewhere.

We can never see all the people who need help. Never. And even when we are unwinding in the evening - perhaps taking a walk to downtown Falmouth, to visit the market or shop - people will approach us and beg to be seen. "Doctor, doctor!! I need to see you tomorrow! Will you be there??!!" is often heard as we walk through the town. The most common question, though, is "Doctor! Doctor! Do you have a dentist with you this time??!! I need to see a dentist!!!"

I always joke that I'm going to wear a shirt in town that says, "Yes, we have a dentist!" And on the back it will say, "Come to the clinic EARLY!!! Or you will NOT be seen!!!" That will save me a heck of a lot of talking. Hee hee.

The next few posts, over the next few days, will be spent talking about each day - notes from my journal, with photos, of course. The food…the work…the relaxation…the sight-seeing…the culture…the people…

…everything that makes Jamaica so unique and so special.

And hopefully…my laptop won't go into cardiac arrest again…because THIS "doctor" doesn't sign death certificates, EITHER!!!



Monday, April 7, 2014

My Chat with Mickey Rooney

The time was the early 1980's, and I was the quintessential poor, struggling college student. Balancing several part-time jobs, along with a full schedule of classes, mix in some sorority and fraternity functions, and top off with a demanding boyfriend - my schedule was crazy, insanely busy.

Added to this was my passion for live theater, of which I couldn't - and still can't - get enough. The problem, though, was my empty bank account. I simply couldn't afford tickets to all of the productions that I wanted to attend.

The solution, when presented, was brilliant…I was offered an opportunity to volunteer as an usher at a local theater venue. For a few hours of work, I would then have the wonderful chance to watch visiting performances for free…FREE!!! Squee. After a brief bit of training, I soon settled into my role as usher, program giver, seat finder, and watchdog…and I loved it. LOVED it. The best part, though, was being able to take in the actors and actresses - most of which were nationally famous - as they weaved their magic on the stage.

I saw all sorts of shows those years…one that stood out was "A Chorus Line", which was dazzling in its choreography and music. Another one that stood out - for quite a different reason - was "The King and I" - which brought the illustrious one and only Yul Brynner to town. Before his scheduled performance, the ushers were given a HUGE list of demands that Mr. Brynner had personally prepared…he was extremely strict and regimented when he performed, and the list was almost amusing if it hadn't been so ridiculous. If I remember, he pretty much banned coughing during the performance - like that would be possible. It was pretty evident that his ego was as big as his head was bald. Geesh.

However…the show that stands out most of all was "Sugar Babies" - the Tony-award winning Broadway show that had starred Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney. Both Ms. Miller and Mr. Rooney were in Kansas City to bring this show to life for our town, and I had arrived a few hours pre-show to insure that the theater was ready for the performance.

As the five or six of us ushers prepped the seating area, a man walked out from behind the curtain on the stage…and called for us to gather closer. Imagine my shock when I realized that it wasn't the House Manager, as I had first thought - but it was Mickey Rooney, himself.

He sat down on the edge of the stage, and invited us even closer…where he then proceeded to introduce himself.


Mickey Rooney introduced himself.

As if.

He then asked each of us our names, and where we were from…and he seemed genuinely interested in our answers. That wasn't enough, though - he then asked us for advice. Oh, not acting advice, obviously - but he asked what the best restaurants in town were.

Mickey Rooney - asking ME for advice???!!


We talked for a few minutes about our town, and he then asked if we had any questions for HIM.

Well, duh.

The first question was who had been his favorite leading lady over the years, and being the gentleman that he was, he diplomatically answered, "Oh, they've ALL been wonderful!" He then went on to say how fortunate he was, that a guy who looked like HIM was able to work with Hollywood's most beautiful women (his words, not mine).

It was amazing.

I was having a conversation with a living legend.

What a class act. No demands. No diva act. No contempt for the "little people" who worked the house.

A true gentleman. After a few more minutes of chit-chat, he personally thanked each of us for our service, and then excused himself to go get ready for the show. I had to pinch myself as I thought, "Did THAT just happen? Did I just chat with Mickey Rooney???!!"

One thing I think he got wrong, though. I think the world was fortunate to have a guy like HIM.

RIP, Mickey.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Keepin' Me Healthy

The alarm goes off this morning at an unheard of 5:45 a.m.

I groggily reach over, hit the “Off” button, and immediately pull the covers back up over my head, hoping against hope that the obnoxious buzzer was really just part of a really bad nightmare….Surely it can’t be time to get up already??!!

As I am silently cursing the alarm gods, my dear Hubby jumps up out of bed, goes to the closet where he quickly dons his workout clothes, and then heads downstairs to the treadmill, where he happily runs 3.3 miles. Gah.

This is when I truly know that the man I married is certifiably insane.

And thus the difference between us…and why my dear Hubby is my “Who Keeps You Healthy?” Hero.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a “Who Keeps You Healthy?” campaign, sponsored by the American Recall Center.* They asked me to write a post about someone in my life who keeps me healthy – and for me, it was a no-brainer.

When I first met Hubby, fruits and vegetables were anathemas to me. I’d sooner die than put something natural – or organic – in my mouth…and yet, Hubby patiently worked with me over the years, finally convincing me of the benefits of a healthy diet. Over the years, my intake of processed foods has dramatically decreased, while my intake of fruits, vegetables and lean-processed meats has increased – leading to a recent drop in my cholesterol level by 36 points, and a drop in my weight, as well…although I won't tell you how much THAT was…hee hee. Double bonus! Squeee!

And because he has demonstrated over the years that it’s never too early to exercise in the mornings, or too cold to exercise (although I do like to protest sometimes), he’s inspired me to crawl out of bed – sometimes before sunrise, even – and hit the pavement, as well. EEP.

If he can do it, by golly, so can I…although there are definite times I honestly have to admit that I wish that he WASN'T doing it…and yet…and yet…once I get going, I find that my energy levels soar, and my body feels ON FIRE. In a good way, of course. So, yes…I got out of bed and laced up my shoes and ran my own 5k this morning, after he left for work. Although I have to be honest and admit that I would have much preferred to still be burrowed under the covers.

So, hats off to you, Dear Hubby, my “Who Keeps You Healthy?” Hero. Your examples over the years have been a true inspiration, and I look forward (sometimes) to running by your side for years to come.

We can at least sleep in on the weekends…right??? Right???


*The American Recall Center provides drug & medical device recall information alongside practical healthcare information and support. Their aim is to build the most comprehensive resource on the Internet for timely & trusted material regarding healthcare topics. This month, they are focusing on hip replacement awareness…check out this interesting blog post from a woman who recently had a hip replacement...


Monday, March 17, 2014

Story Horse? *


Every so often or so, you read those weird stories in the newspaper or a magazine about someone who finds out, like, after 50 years or so, that they were adopted. Or they have an adopted brother or sister that they never knew about…or something else truly stunning that leaves you scratching your head, thinking, "Wow. How weird to not know that about yourself after all this time."

Don't worry.

I didn't just find out that I was adopted or anything, because that really WOULD be freaky…and besides, as crazy as my mother is, I have NO doubt that I am truly her biological daughter. (She's probably reading this right now, so let me insert here that I love her, craziness and all…hee hee.)

No, I didn't just find out I was adopted…but I DID just find out - a month ago or so - that who I THOUGHT I was…was not quite accurate.

Based on family lore, as well as my own genealogical research of my family, I knew that I was pretty much German on my Dad's side, because with a maiden name of "Wagner" - there wasn't much doubt. Duh. Although my great-great-great grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, who was called "Brownie" by her husband and family, giving me a bit of Indian blood…which is rather cool, I think.

So, that was my Dad's side. As far as my mother's side, the story had come down that her maternal family was German, and her paternal family had come to the United States back in the 1700's from Wales. For 50+ years, I had assumed that I was German-Welsh-American Indian...and left it at that. Rather boring, but what can one do with family heritage??

This past January, I was in Ft Myers, Florida, and took my aunt to a Celtic Festival…I blogged about it here, if you want a refresher. Anyway…as we were wandering around the festival, I couldn't help but look around at all the people who were proclaiming their Irish and Scottish pride…and I was a bit envious. How I wish I could have been sporting a festive t-shirt, proclaiming my heritage - but there aren't that many t-shirts floating around that say, "Proud to be Welsh" - or "Proud to be German-Welsh-American Indian" - etc, etc.


My aunt heard me sighing, and asked what the problem was, so I quickly explained:

Me: I have t-shirt envy. I wish we had a t-shirt that had OUR heritage on it.

Aunt: What are you talking about? We DO!!!!

Me: No, we don't. Look around…there aren't any t-shirts that say, "Kiss me, I'm Welsh!"

Aunt: WHAH??!! Welsh??!! We're not Welsh!!!! Our family came from Scotland!!!!

Wait, what?


Well. Upon further research, I discovered that my maternal grandfather's family actually originated in Tipperary, Ireland…eventually moved to Scotland…later, moved to Wales…and THEN emigrated to the United States.

Do you know what this means???!!!!

It means - KISS ME!!! I'M IRISH!!!!!

Woot, woot! You can not EVEN imagine how excited I was to learn this! I can wear a t-shirt now! I can celebrate Saint Patrick's Day and not feel like a fraud! I can eat corned beef and drink green beer! Well. Actually, I HATE corned beef and beer, so scratch that last one - but you get the drift.

It DID feel rather strange to JUST be learning this after fifty years…to just now be finding out a piece of yourself that you didn't know existed, so to speak…but hey. I'm happy. It explains a lot, actually - especially the part of me that likes to tell an audience a story, right??!!

Now - if you'll excuse me…I have fifty years of Saint Patrick's Days to make up for, so I'd better get busy.


* "What's the story, horse?" — abbreviated as "story horse?" — is how you ask a buddy what's up in Ireland. It's a less breezy greeting than its American counterpart, and invites the other person to really dive into what's been going on in life.

**Our family's coat of arms


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Legends Never Die

Sometimes in life, when you least expect it, something so amazing happens that it will become the stuff of future family lore…the story that gets told around the family dinners and passed on to future generations. You all know what I'm talking about, as I am sure that EVERY family has such stories and tales…usually, the tale gets bigger and bigger every time it's told, exaggerated beyond belief, until eventually it becomes legend.

Such is the story that unfolded on Monday of this week, while we we were innocently attending a baseball game here in Fort Myers. Minding our own business, really, not realizing that a memory was about to be made that will never be forgotten. Oh, I'm sure it will get "stretched" a bit in the future…it will get bigger and bigger as it's retold…and that's okay. Because we were there, and we saw it happen.

To set the scene…Hubby and I, along with our two youngest, headed over to Jet Blue Park, the Spring Training home of the 2013 World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox. We try to attend a Red Sox game every March when we visit Fort Myers for Spring Break, and this year was no exception - except that about 20,000 other people ALL had the same idea, being that the Red Sox are the defending World Champions and everyone else wants to jump on their bandwagon.

In case you had a brain fart and FORGOT who won the 2013 World Series, there were plenty of reminders everywhere at the ballpark...

Several months ago, I had managed to snag some halfway-decent tickets to Monday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays…our seats were down the right-field line, about three rows back from the field. We arrived at the game about two hours before game time…which is God-awfully early, I agree, but necessary during a Spring Training game, when fans will begin streaming in THREE hours before game time.

Spring Training is very laid back…the players are much more at ease, especially when mingling with the fans. They'll usually take more time to interact with the crowd, giving out autographs, photos, and baseball tips. We decided we would just chill out before the game, soaking in the sun, the laid-back atmosphere, and the beauty of the ballpark. Jet Blue Park is only about two years old, and is a state of the art facility. It's called "Fenway South" - as it's a replica of Fenway Park, up in Boston….

In case you had a brain fart and FORGOT that Jet Blue Park is known as "Fenway South", there were reminders everywhere at the ballpark…they seem to be pretty good at these reminders, it appears….

There's even a replica of the Green Monster out in left field:

It's pretty awesome…last year, we sat on top of that…but it was a little high for me...

We spent some time initially exploring the area that has a tribute to some of Boston's greatest players, as well as a tribute to Jackie Robinson:

Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski…played his entire 23-year career with the Red Sox…one of my favorite players of all time...

Jackie Robinson…truly a legend, and someone I wish I had been able to see play…

We eventually made our way into the stadium and found our seats…it was nice just chilling out, listening to some great music on the loudspeakers, and watching the Tampa Bay Rays take batting practice. Sitting where we were, it soon became very evident that an awful lot of balls were being smacked into the section of seats right beside us…there was a group of young men hanging out in this section with their baseball gloves, all eager to scoop up a foul ball as a free souvenir. After watching this for a few minutes, I leaned over to our son, Taylor, and daughter, Mikayla, and casually said, "Hey! You guys should be over there - you might catch something, too!"

I didn't really think they would take me up on this…as both are somewhat shy and hesitant…but seeing that the stadium was still pretty empty, and that no one would mind if they moved over a section to scoop up errant foul balls, they soon got to their feet and moved over to the next section. Apparently, Hubby had missed my suggestion, as he soon realized the kids had gone, and seeing where they'd went, he voiced his concerns:

Hubby, in shock: "Wait, what??!! What the heck are the kids doing over there???!!!"

Me: "They're going to try to catch a foul ball."

Hubby, in disbelief: "EEK! MIKAYLA is going to catch a foul ball???!!! Hardly - she's more likely to break her neck!!!!"

Which is somewhat true. She IS a bit of a Klutz…and not exactly athletic, AT ALL. She's more likely to catch a cold, actually, than catch a baseball. But, still…

Me: "Oh, leave her alone. Let her have some fun. Besides, it's not like she'll catch anything. Taylor's over there, too, and he'll make sure to catch anything before it can do any damage to her."

Which is true. Taylor played baseball for many, many years, including playing on the varsity team at high school. And he's 6'5" tall. If a ball was anywhere CLOSE to hitting Mikayla, Taylor can reach over with his long arm and defend her nose or her face. He's got quite a stretch.

Not quite happy with this, Hubby studies the scene a few minutes longer, and notices that Taylor is in Row 1, along with 10 other young men about his age, up against the barrier between the seats and the field…while Mikayla is standing a few rows behind Taylor….

Hubby: "Why is Mikayla standing so far back???!! Why isn't she with everyone else, in the first row??"

Me: "Well, she's waiting for the bounce. Besides, this is GOOD that she's not in the first row. It's less likely she'll get smacked with a ball in her face, because Taylor will snatch anything that's even close to her, with her being behind him."

This is true. At least logically, this sounded very true. Little did I know that this was NOT going to happen.

Sure enough.

No sooner had I said that, when we heard a crack of the bat…and saw a screaming line drive heading right towards us…or at least the next section over.

Hubby and I immediately sat up straight, and I remember saying out loud, "Uh oh. Here we go."

As we watched the ball sail over our heads, heading towards the kids, I was holding my breath. What would happen? Would Mikayla's nose get smashed with a baseball, giving her a 4th broken nose??? Which would mean I would NEVER hear the end of it from Hubby??!! Or would Taylor reach up with his incredible height and save the day???

As the ball arc'd downwards towards the group of eager young men, all straining to jump up and catch it, one of them must have tipped it - so it sailed over their heads, took a bounce right by Mikayla, who then shot out one hand and grabbed the ball. On it's first bounce. She was off balance as she grabbed it, and tilted alarmingly over, appearing to almost topple over the seats, but she caught herself…and quickly righted herself, holding the ball up triumphantly with one arm...

…as the group of young men in Row #1 - including her brother - looked at her in disbelief...

…as the small crowd sitting in various sections close to this section gave her a round of applause - the young 14-year old girl, beating out the 20-year old men, the majority of whom had on GLOVES, mind you, in the hunt for the souvenir…

…and as her parents watched in a state of shock, mixed with a huge swelling of pride.

THAT'S OUR GIRL!!!!!!! I wanted to shout, and blast over the loudspeakers.


Well. The smile on Mikayla's face was pretty much permanently plastered there the rest of the afternoon…it got even better when she gathered up the courage and had Tampa Bay shortstop Sean Rodriguez autograph her ball.

Such is the stuff of lore…the day that our daughter caught a ball at the baseball game.

Beating out men…with gloves. Beating out her 6'5" brother.

And not breaking her neck in the process.