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US medical team helps Nine Miles

BY KARYL WALKER walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 11, 2012    

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JEAN Alexander, blind and having lost a leg to diabetes was carried into the Cedella Booker Basic School in Nine Miles, St Ann after the doctors, nurses and medical students who came to Jamaica last week to deliver free health care had already packed up their equipment and were having a meal.

Alexander, who was seen by the doctors, despite her late arrival, was among more than 300 men, women and children who received attention from members of the California-based charity Integrative Clinics International (ICI).

The team came to Jamaica to treat persons who have limited access to health care.

Alexander had lost her left leg to gangrene that set in after a small cut on her toe became infected. "Doctors cut it off just below the knee," said Alexander who also explained that her blindness came as a result of diabetes.

"We have been treating her whenever we come to this section of the island, and today will be no different, as tired as we are now," said team doctor Bruno Lewin, who has been making the trip to Jamaica for the last 11 years.

The 15-member team which comprises eight doctors, two nurses, medical students and support staff hails from the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego and some have been coming to Jamaica twice per year for the last 12 years.

The move was the brainchild of the Ziggy Marley charity foundation, Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment (URGE) and the Bob Marley Foundation.

The members of ICI dig into their pockets to find their airfare, accommodation and to purchase drugs and other medical equipment to administer to the needy who would normally have to travel miles to see a doctor.

According to ICI co-ordinator Felicia Kelly, the group collectively forks out US$30,000 per trip.

"Everybody pays their own way to get here. We are glad to be helping the less fortunate," she said.

On Thursday, the grounds of the Cedella Booker Basic School were a beehive of activity as the residents of Nine Mile, Abouker, Stepney, Alva, and other surrounding districts of the Dry Harbour Mountains flocked there to get blood pressure and blood sugar checks, HIV and syphilis tests, dental care for children, and general consultations.

There was also a pharmacy set up to dispense free drugs for acute illnesses such as asthma as well as ear and throat infections.

"We also did one surgery which involved draining an abscess found on the breast of one of the individuals," Kelly said.

The team members also distributed toothbrushes, toothpaste and other products including toys for the children.

General Practitioner Karl Walter was pleased that he could be able to offer his services for free to those most in need.

"I think my life has been very good to me and I just love to be able to give back something," Walter said.

But the activities were not confined to the school grounds.

Assisted by members of the Bob Marley Foundation, which included Tuff Gong Operations Manager Lorna Wainwright, Colin Leslie and Paul Kelly, a two member team of doctor Doug Aberg and nurse practitioner Pattye Anderson ventured into several districts to administer care to those who were too ill to journey to the main hub at the Cedella Booker Basic School.

One such person was 99-year-old Kathlyn Miller who lives in the district of Stepney.

"This is what my life's work entails, administering to those in need," Anderson, whose mother is Jamaican and who has been coming here for the last 12 years, said.

In addition,the members of the Bob Marley Foundation also distributed care packages to other needy persons in the districts.

When asked about the cost of the operations, Wainwright said the Marleys were not seeking mileage from their charitable work.

"The Marleys are not keen on revealing how much money they spend giving back to the poor. They have been giving back for years and certainly don't want any praise for their charity work. They are doing it from their heart," she said.

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