by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Urbisher Williams received her first medical intervention in August 2019
- Delivery of medical interventions in Grenada positively impacted by CHORES team
- To date, US$20 million worth of medical services has been delivered through CHORES
16-year-old Urbisher Williams is not just your average teenager and at a surface glance, one might think that this teenager is perfectly healthy, however, Williams has had to struggle with a combination of congenital heart defects from birth.
Although her condition is quite rare and has the potential to impact her life severely, she has not allowed her condition to limit her ability to live her best life and thanks to world-renowned medical charity group CHORES – Children’s Health Organisation Relief and Educational Services – the J W Fletcher Catholic Secondary school student can now have her life back.
As she was given three months to live after her condition was diagnosed, her mother Eridone Williams can only describe her daughter’s survival over the years as a miracle. With the support of the CHORES support group in Grenada, Williams recently received her first medical intervention after years of uncertainty thanks to Dr Jose Ettedgui who discovered that there was a way to conduct surgery that will bring some level of normalcy to her heart’s function.
Williams received her first heart surgery in August 2019 at The UF Health Cardiovascular Center in Jacksonville, Florida and her mother is ever grateful that her daughter has been given a new lease on life. Williams is expected to undergo another surgery in March 2020. “At the time of her birth I was always crying, but I kept asking God to show me a sign to help her out, which he did and we prayed to God that things work out well and to see that she reached 16 years. Everything is ok right now, so I am grateful for that, I am happy and she is happy as well.”
Williams’s medical intervention is among countless other success stories since CHORES made their first visit to Grenada in March 1989, which has marked a turning point for medical intervention in Grenada. The organisation marked its 30th anniversary, and the CHORES support group has sought to recognise and award long-standing members for their time and expertise to assist with children’s healthcare in Grenada. A not-for-profit, non-sectarian children’s health organisation based in Jacksonville, Florida, CHORES was founded in 1989 and comprised paediatricians, paediatric surgeons, paediatric sub-specialists and anaesthesiologists, paediatric physical, occupational and speech therapists, prosthetic specialists, engineers, contractors, and educators from the United States who travel to Grenada delivering medical interventions to the most vulnerable within various communities.
On Wednesday, 16 October members of the CHORES support group, chaired by Dr Beverly Nelson distributed awards to several CHORES medical teams who just completed another visit to the island. Minister of Health Hon. Nickolas Steele attended the ceremony held at the St George’s University Club in L’anse aux Épines.
To date, US$20 million worth of services has been delivered including US$4 million worth of cardiac surgeries and US$1 million worth of equipment, as well as
- 9,000 Cardiac visits
- 7,500 Special Needs visits
- 382 Plastic visits/surgeries
- 241 ENT Surgical Procedures
- 210 Urology visits/surgeries
- 207 Orthopedics visits/surgeries
- 187 Ophthalmology visits/surgeries.
Dr Beverly Nelson, Chairperson of the CHORES support group in Grenada reflected that over the last 30 years she is quite impressed with the growth that has taken place and lives that have been impacted through the delivery of medical interventions by the CHORES team.
Dr Nelson observed that going forward, the CHORES medical interventions are also needed in the area of mental health. “It is safe to say that the project is evolving as the needs change as more of the community becomes involved. As we see the different needs in the paediatric populations let’s say we started with cardiac, we might have been doing specific surgeries ten years ago that we no longer do, but we see that there is a need for this type of surgery so we will pull in a surgeon to do that. There is a lot of mental health issues in the community so we are going to morph ourselves to also include that. So what I think has happened over the years that is really significant is as we see members of our community, both in medical and non-medical spheres jump in and give us all the support that they can, it pushes us to do more for the community.”
Dr Nelson described the programme as being second to none in the Caribbean. “We can see a child up to the age of 30, so we start at birth and we follow them up to age 30. That has not happened in the region because once you get to a certain age you go to the adult cardiologist but we follow them. We will provide surgery if you need it free of cost. We will be able to if we have an emergency case, use our Telemedicine Unit to tap into the unit in Florida and the cardiologist can look at the heart and say to us, okay, this child needs surgery and give us a treatment plan that can be used temporarily as we make arrangements with the Grenada Heart Foundation to remove the child from here to Jacksonville,” she said.
Speech-Language Pathologist and Autism Specialist, and coordinator for the special needs arm of the project, Tonya Hyacinth said the contribution of CHORES goes far beyond medical interventions. “The US$20 million figure given is for the oversees limb of the project, the cost of supplies and surgeries. We have not calculated the local contribution of Grenadians into this project, but this is the cost of bringing children to the US for cardiac surgeries, for the shipment that comes in with supplies for the General Hospital. And we are not only talking about supplies for the CHORES limb of the project, but we also get supplies for theatre wards that CHORES donate through their contributions and their teams working in Florida begging and getting supplies for Grenadians.”
A longstanding member of the CHORES visiting team Paediatric Cardiologist Dr George F Armstrong, said having led support to assist Grenadians over the years has been quite satisfying especially having to conduct corrective surgery on 16-year-old Urbisher Williams. “In some areas, it has been a lifesaver. I followed her since she was a baby and to see her now 16 years later, a beautiful young teenager that’s just very important and wonderful.”
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