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.