Gabriel Beversluis and his colleagues are doing their part to make sure some Jamaican children will be easily able to ramble about on an island famed for people with fleet feet.
Kentucky doctor Beversluis is with the Paediatric Orthotic Clinic of Negril, which in July returned to Negril after a 20-month coronavirus pandemic-linked absence to among other things help ensure a number of children with severe medical issues will grow into adults who won’t find the likes of walking a major challenge.
Five volunteers made the July trip to Negril – two orthotists, a nurse and two assistants.
Beversluis – whose wife Jodi, who’s a nurse, and daughter Madison have lent the clinic a helping hand as well, creating something of a philanthropy family affair – says his organization deals with a range of serious medical issues while in a seaside community that’s on an island often associated with Olympic champion sprinters.
“We provide free orthotic braces to children with neuromuscular diseases, birth defects and orthopedic problems,” he reports. “We provide bracing for feet, ankles, knees, hips, spine, elbows and wrists as needed in order to prevent progression of deformity and to help the children grow in the best position possible in spite of their conditions. These braces also help children to be able to improve the function, such as learning to stand and walk properly, where otherwise, without this care, they may never be able to do so.”
The group has been operating for 12 years, having chosen Jamaica thanks to a connection made years ago between an American pediatric orthotist who traveled to Jamaica for vacation and was a close friend of an American living in Jamaica part time. Negril Rotary Club involvement was also a catalyst. RIU Hotels & Resorts decided to provide funding and support and “from there a great partnership was formed,” Beversluis says.
Beversluis says the Paediatric Orthotic Clinic of Negril treats children with neuromuscular and orthopedic conditions, conditions which must be managed throughout their lives in order to prevent permanent deformity from occurring and help them to be able to function at their best.
“While there are some orthopedic and physiotherapy services available on the island, most patients report delays and challenges getting in to see one of the few specialists available,” he continues. “Additionally, there is no insurance coverage for orthotic bracing, which can cost several hundred US dollars per patient.
“The expense of this orthotic bracing is out of the reach of the vast majority of our patients,” he continues. “With children, they will outgrow their bracing every six months to a year so the cost is multiplied as they grow. The orthotic bracing that is needed for these children is vital for them to be able to grow properly, to be able to walk and run with other children and ultimately to be able to have productive lives.
“The families are extremely grateful for the specialized care that they receive. They definitely understand how hard we work and the value of the service that is given to them at no charge. They understand that without the orthotic care that we provide, they really have no other options for this type of care.”
Some families travel for over five hours, relying on buses and taxis, to bring their children to the clinic.
July’s clinic saw approximately 60 children treated and approximately US$100,000 worth of custom bracing given free to patients. The Paediatric Orthotic Clinic of Negril also provides donated socks and shoes to families.
Beversluis is quick to thank RIU for its contribution to clinic efforts. “Not only do they provide accommodations for us during the week of the clinic but they also provide funding for the rent and upkeep on the clinic space, the utilities and cell phone, maintenance and repairs and other incidental expenses which arise. RIU also provides water and refreshments for our patients’ families.”
“Being able to maintain the continuity of this project and the encouragement of all those involved during these times of uncertainty and great changes is a great achievement. At RIU, we understand that consistency is essential for the success of some programs, especially for the ones linked to medical treatment. We will be able to see how we improve the quality of life of the children in the area. We are very happy to have resumed activities and that the volunteer doctors have been able to travel to begin the program this year.” adds RIU’s Alma Lidia Tesillos.
RIU Hotels & Resorts involvement in the project falls under the banner of the company’s Social Responsibility department’s Social Action Plan, which has the hotel chain work with communities where it operates to “contribute to the improvement and greater well-being of the social environment.”
Beversluis adds that the Paediatric Orthotic Clinic of Negril ‘s return to Negril after last being in the destination close to a year and a half ago group was a welcome development indeed for those being treated.
“Most of our patients need to be seen at least every 6 to 9 months for follow-up due to outgrowing the bracing that we provide,” he says. “It has been 20 months since we had been there so every patient had completely outgrown their bracing several months ago and were counting the days until we could return to help refit them.”