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Jamaicans benefit from medical mission

Published:Wednesday | June 19, 2019 | 12:40 AM
Members from the medical team hard at work.
Members from the medical team hard at work.

Nearly a hundred doctors, pharmacists, registered nurses, other medical personnel and support staff visited the island recently and carried out medical procedures and surgeries on hundreds of Jamaicans in the parishes of St Ann, St Mary, Kingston and St Catherine.

At the Port Maria Hospital in St Mary, a team of ophthalmologists and support staff carried out 60 eye surgeries.

President of the Alliance of Jamaican and American Humanitarian (AOJAH), Joan Crawford McDonald, a retired nurse living in California, had high praises for the enthusiastic team of volunteers she works with. She said the volunteers were excited to give of their service to the sick in Jamaica.

Crawford singled out Gloria Blackburn, vice-president of medical affairs, for her tremendous support in ensuring that the medical equipment got donated for the mission.

With a team of 86 volunteers, Crawford said the volunteers had their hands full in Old Harbour, St Catherine, where more than 600 patients turned out.

Among the services offered were eye care and medical check-ups. Those with conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure got a year’s supply of medication, while eye drops and glasses were donated to patients.

Elaborating on the outreach activity, Crawford said it was a multifaceted mission which started with laparoscopic surgery (a surgical diagnostic procedure used to examine the organs inside the abdomen) at the St Ann’s Bay Hospital.

“My team of physicians and nurses taught the doctors and nurses how to perform and support laparoscopy surgery. We also donated the equipment to them,” she said. Crawford also pointed out that a group of obstetrician-gynecologists went to the Jubilee and Spanish Town hospitals to train physicians in laparoscopic surgery.

The paediatric unit of the St Ann’s Bay Hospital also received a boost with the donation of equipment that will go a far way in saving the lives of premature babies.

AOJAH, which was established in 2010, carries out annual medical and education missions to Jamaica. The organisation has so far spent millions of dollars on equipment and medical supplies for the mission.

Big plans for 2020

The nonprofit organisation has big plans for its 2020 mission.

“Jamaica has a big problem with colon cancer and its screening. Gastroenterologists, physicians and surgeons that do the colonoscopy screening and surgeries came here hoping we could do colonoscopy, but I was a little challenged getting the equipment,” said Crawford. The plan, she said, is to work on the equipment so the programme can be set up next year.

“Hopefully, we can impact the colon cancer in Jamaica. We believe in outcomes, so we collect data and we look at outcomes,” she said.

Apart from the medical mission, AOJAH has also given support to education, awarding a scholarship in the sum of US$1,500 annually to one Calabar High School student to attend The University of the West Indies. Further, five HEART Trust/NTA students were awarded scholarships in the sum of US$500 each for the year. School supplies and backpacks were also given to select basic schools.

Crawford said her organisation is looking to increase its volunteer efforts in Jamaica, noting that she was inspired by her mother, who always helped many who were in need.

“I know the struggles in Jamaica. Some days it gets overwhelming, my planning team works for a year to make it happen, but considering where I’m coming from, my life could have been very different, so I have to give back,” she said.