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Miller's comfort - US medical mission cuts 81-y-o mom's seven-month wait for CT scan

Published:Thursday | May 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Sharon Miller (left) and her mother, Petrona Martin.
MU1 Brad Parrish of the US Navy Fleet Force band plays Bob Marley's 'One Love' at the start of the mission of USNS Comfort at the National Arena in St Andrew yesterday.

Sharon Miller was concerned about the "rapid decline" in the health of her 81-year-old mother and decided last month to take her to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH).

It was during that April 13 visit, Miller said, that she got the grim news that her mother, Petrona Martin, may have dementia. What she was told next was even more shocking.

"They gave me an appointment for the 6th of November to do the [CT] scan," Miller told The Gleaner yesterday of the near seven-month wait she would have to endure before doctors could confirm whether her mother had the disease.

"The decline [in her health] is so rapid that it is cause for concern because she is going down fast, and instead of an urgent date, this is what I got - November," she underscored.

Miller and her elderly mother were among the hundreds of persons who turned out at the National Arena in St Andrew yesterday to get free medical attention from health professionals who are visiting the island onboard the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Comfort.

Jamaica is one of 11 stops the ship will make throughout the Caribbean as part of what has been dubbed 'Continuing Promise 2015', and it is estimated that more than 10,000 Jamaicans will get free medical attention during the one-week visit.

Miller said she learnt of the US medical mission from an employee at the KPH.

"They called me to say that I might be able to get an earlier CT scan done because there is a ship here from the US and they were going to see if they could get her [Martin] on it," she recalled.

Her perseverance was rewarded. Miller said prior to her interview with The Gleaner, she was processed and given an appointment for 8 o'clock Sunday morning to have her mother get the CT scan onboard the ship.

"This is a blessing. Words are not enough. Words are just not enough to say how I feel because she is going down fast," Miller said of her early Mother's Day gift.




"To have her in this condition until November certainly would not work. I was thinking of doing it privately, which is a lot of money, but I couldn't have her in this state because she is not even eating," she continued.

Miller said she is hoping that the scan will show exactly "what is happening" with her mother, and that it is treatable.

She had high praises for the US naval mission while blasting the poor state of Jamaica's public health-care system.

"I'm sorry that it's only for one week. We need something like this in Jamaica for six months to alleviate the suffering of poor people ... . It is really, really bad," she said.

Added Miller: "It doesn't have to be this way; it does not have to be like this."

She suggested that Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson visit KPH unannounced to get a first-hand view of the way "poor people" are being treated.

"I hear him (Ferguson) say he wants to get chikungunya to know how it feels. What I can tell him is if him take off the jacket and tie and go dung a KPH go siddung and try get treatment, him would know what the poor people are feeling," she emphasised.

Up to yesterday, Captain Kevan Mann, a member of the US mission, revealed that 80 persons had been booked for surgery onboard the USNS Comfort, which serves as a floating hospital for the US military, and helps to provide disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. The surgeries, which include hernia repairs and the removal of gall bladders, began yesterday and will continue for the duration of the vessel's stay in the island.