Doctors giving back
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
HAGLEY GAP, St Andrew:
WHEN DR Sherieka Wright returned to work at the Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, last year with stories about her trip to Jamaica where she had hosted a medical clinic for residents of her birthplace, Hagley Gap in St Andrew, at least two of her colleagues were excited.
Doctors Fred Waldron and Jamaican-born Shirley Jones Dillon kept their promise to make the journey with her and did so this month. With their assistance, Wright was able to raise more medical supplies and extend the clinics to Penlyne Castle.
The team was bolstered by the presence of United States volunteers, registered nurse Omar Sheikh and Helena Edmonds who are members of the Blue Mountain Project team which operates the clinic.
Jones Dillon recalls how she got drafted: "She (Dr Wright) was telling us about this project and I was so moved by everything that she was saying, and I've always wanted to come back and do something in Jamaica. I've always done something elsewhere in Jamaica but not in this area, so I said, 'I'll come back with you when you go'. It has been very rewarding because the people here are just so genuinely friendly and nice and are so grateful when you come to take care of them."
When The Gleaner visited Penlyne Castle in St Andrew a week ago, Dr Shirley Jones Dillon, an attending doctor who works with Dr Sherieka Wright in the United States, was busy giving back to the land and people of her birth. Raised in Kingston, the steep hills and poor road conditions took some getting used to but the Jamaican, who left here as a teen, adapted with little effort.
Poor road conditions and cool temperatures aside, Jones Dillon, whose husband hails from Glengoffe, St Catherine, was impressed by the many senior citizens she encountered on this visit. The cases of hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes she encountered were to be expected, but she was particularly impressed by the absence of some major health conditions observed in the United States (US).
"Some of the complications that we see so frequently in the US, you don't have a lot of the patients here with that; things such as heart disease, heart murmurs and congestive heart failure," the US-based doctor noted. She attributed this to the lifestyle which forces residents in Penlyne Castle to walk most places and for long distances.
"We have 80-odd and 90-odd-year-old people walking up that hill, down to Hagley Gap, and I even walked down to Hagley Gap and it's a big cardiovascular workout. These people have been doing it for so long that, relatively, they are very healthy. Their blood pressure might be uncontrolled and for some it's just a matter of getting them the medication and they are willing to take it. So it's just the access to care that's limited," Jones Dillon reported.
One resident of Penlyne Castle who welcomed the team's return was 88-year-old Daisy Jackson who told The Gleaner she came to have her blood pressure and sugar checked. "One of the doctor them (Dr Wright) is mi great-grandniece," she beamed.
The US-based Jamaican-born medical doctor was particularly impressed by the absence of diabetic retinopathy which causes damage to the retina usually due to complications from being afflicted with diabetes over a long time. In fact, the longer a person has diabetes, the higher his or her chances of developing diabetic retinopathy, which is said to affect 80 per cent of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more.
Between her medical duties, Jones Dillon took the time to check out the breathtaking beauty of the Blue Mountains which she captured on camera. She was still in awe of the sudden drop-off points along the road, but describes Penlyne Castle as "very beautiful, unblemished and a treasured landmark".
CAPTION: Dr Sherieka Wright takes time to catch her breath after returning from an emergency call in Penlyne Castle, St Andrew. She was at the clinic when a woman came with the news that her father 'drop down' and the young doctor rushed off to assist. With the medical emergency over, the Jamaican-born doctor, who now works in the United States, was hard-pressed to walk the journey back from the house which wasn't really 'just round the corner' as she had been told. - Photo by Christopher Serju