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Corner Brook’s Kayla Carey helping strengthen medical capacity in St. Lucia

Photo courtesy of Kayla Carey

Kayla Carey, a nurse at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, is seen training medical professionals at St. Jude Hospital in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia. Carey, who is originally from Corner Brook, is part of Project Next Mile.
Photo courtesy of Kayla Carey Kayla Carey, a nurse at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, is seen training medical professionals at St. Jude Hospital in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia. Carey, who is originally from Corner Brook, is part of Project Next Mile. - Contributed

Kayla Carey was sitting outside a shack at the George Odlum Sports Stadium in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia on Monday morning.

The temperature was around 26 C, a stark contrast to the -4 C being experience in her hometown of Corner Brook.

She said the large football and track and field stadium is used daily by children, but she wasn’t there to watch them.

Carey, 27, has been in St. Lucia, an island nation in the Eastern Caribbean since Feb. 8 as part of a team with Project Next Mile.

After it burned down in 2009, St. Jude Hospital in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia, was relocated to the George Odlum Sports Stadium. This is the view from the bleachers.
After it burned down in 2009, St. Jude Hospital in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia, was relocated to the George Odlum Sports Stadium. This is the view from the bleachers.

Project Next Mile was started four years ago by Mike Sangster, a physiotherapist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

The non-profit organization aims to strengthen communities through capacity building in resource scare areas of the world.

In St. Lucia, they do that by working with medical professionals at St. Jude Hospital, providing education sessions and working with them on the wards and in the physiotherapy department to help them deliver care.

“Giving them the education they want,” said Carey, a registered nurse working in pediatric critical care at the IWK.

“So, it’s all guided by what they want and what they need.”

This is Carey’s second time volunteering with the group.

This year’s team includes medical professionals who all work at the IWK, including an eye care team and a respiratory therapist, and non-medical volunteers who help out in the hospital during the day.

The team has rotated in with five at the beginning and now includes about nine or 10 people. Carey will complete her stay on Wednesday.

Working with a group that builds capacity is something that fit with what Carey, who has taken part in global health trips before, wanted to do. She was invited to join last year’s trip and was quickly hooked.

While at the hospital she goes wherever she’s needed. And that sometimes takes her out of her comfort zone and out of her area of expertise.

So why was she sitting at the stadium on Monday?

Because the hospital is located in rooms underneath the stadium’s stands.

The original St. Jude burned down in 2009 and was relocated to the stadium.

Just to experience a hospital in a stadium last year was quite interesting, said Carey.

“It’s nothing I’ve ever seen or thought a hospital would look like.”

She said the experience has made her more appreciative of the health-care system in Canada.

In the year since she first visited, Carey said she can see the work they did being carried on. She said hospital staff are using the things they were taught last year on pediatric pain and distracting patients.

She’s also seen relationships develop between team members and the staff.

“So now they know that we’re coming back and we know that we’re committed to helping them out here, to working with them through that partnership.”

She said it’s a pretty awesome experience.

That partnership will continue after the group leaves as the staff at St. Jude can email or call them any time.

Carey said Project Next Mile is also looking at utilizing technology to deliver education and access to specialists the hospital currently doesn’t have.

It’s also planning to make multiple trips down each year.

Outside of the medical care the group is helping build the community in other ways and for the past three years has run a soccer program for women and girls, something that was non-existent before.

The program, which is now recognized by St. Lucia’s national soccer association, includes a mentorship piece.

“What we ideally want is for the older girls to start teaching the younger girls.”

For more information or to get involved with Project Next Mile email projectnextmile@gmail.com.

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