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Taking Care

Thriving Children is Her Inspiration

St. Lucia
5 Minute Read
"They inspire me," says pediatrician Dr. Jackie Bird about the children she cares for in St. Lucia. "To witness what these kids endure in their young lives, and to do so with resilience and joy to be alive—it really gets me going."
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Dr. Bird's greatest joy is seeing the children of St. Lucia thrive and prosper
Dr. Bird is one of the first people ailing children see on this small eastern Caribbean island located in the Lesser Antilles. Born in Antigua, she's lived in the Caribbean all her life and always knew she wanted to be a doctor. She went to the University of Jamaica and then on to Barbados for her doctorate. The medical field was wide open, but her first clinical rotation at the University of the West Indies Medical School was in pediatrics. "I was sold," remembers Dr. Bird. "I've been healing children in St. Lucia for the past 28 years." 

Her association with World Pediatric Project began ten years ago. Since then, an estimated 2,000 children have received WPP diagnostic, surgical or rehabilitative services with the assistance of Dr. Bird's medical oversight. Describing this partnership Dr. Bird says, "World Pediatric Project has changed the face of children's medical care for children and families in St. Lucia. Parents and children no longer have to be afraid. Something can now be done about it - with no cost to the family."
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"World Pediatric Project has changed the face of children's medical care for children and families in St. Lucia. Parents and children no longer have to be afraid. Something can now be done about it - with no cost to the family."
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Kyle's passion is running and he proudly displays his first place medals from a recent competition.
One of many patients Dr. Bird connected with World Pediatric Project is a ten-year-old boy named Kyle, suffering from debilitating headaches and vomiting, making it increasingly difficult for him to attend school and participate in regular activities. Dr. Bird suspected a brain tumor, a diagnosis later confirmed through diagnostic imaging completed in Barbados. "I was very attached to him. At one point I had to tell the family we might not be able to help in time," recalls Dr. Bird, noting the tears in her eyes with this memory. With no other regional options for neurosurgery, Dr. Bird reached out to World Pediatric Project, and Kyle's surgical intervention was expedited through WPP's U.S. patient referral program. After successful surgery to remove the mass, Kyle returned home to resume the activities he most loves – long distance running and baseball. 
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"It's like they become your own children."
Dr. Jackie Bird, St. Lucia Pediatrician
Dr. Bird is well known for going above and beyond the call of duty to help the children of St. Lucia. Uri was just two weeks old when he began struggling to breathe. His mother, Lana rushed him to the hospital where he stayed in NICU for almost two weeks. Seemingly better, Uri was sent home, but within a month, was back in the hospital with the same breathing issue.

It was discovered he had fluid in his lungs and heart failure. "My whole world was coming to an end at the thought I could be losing my son," recollects Lana. It was at that time Lana met Dr. Bird, who referred baby Uri to WPP. "Words cannot describe Dr. Bird. She loves her job and loves my Uri." 

Diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, Uri and Lana traveled to Richmond through WPP's U.S. patient referral program, and received a cardiac catheterization to close a hole in his heart which was causing the malfunction. Back home in St. Lucia, Lana is relieved to see Uri now a happy, healthy and thriving baby. 
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Some of the children awaiting their turn for rheumatic heart screening with Dr. Bird and WPP pediatric cardiologist volunteer Dr. Bill Moskowitz. WPP screens hundreds of school-age children in St. Lucia annually for undetected rheumatic heart disease.
WPP pediatric cardiologist volunteer, Dr. Bill Moskowitz has worked with Dr. Bird for years, and describes her as a force of nature. "She is a life-long learner, a master clinician, a fierce advocate for her patients and their families and for all the children of St. Lucia," explains Dr. Moskowitz. "I have traveled internationally and on more than one occasion have met St. Lucians who without exception knew Dr. Bird, and often even benefitted by her medical care."

In partnership with World Pediatric Project, Dr. Bird has expanded her reach of St. Lucian children to remote villages to screen school children for rheumatic heart disease, an often undetected but potentially deadly heart condition. In the past year the team screened nearly 1,000 children, discovering 20 children with previously undiagnosed rheumatic fever or congenital heart disease. These children will be closely monitored by St. Lucian pediatricians until next spring's return of WPP's diagnostic cardiology clinic. 

"Caring for children is Dr. Bird's mission in life, notes Jackie King, WPP's program director for the Eastern Caribbean. "She has a wealth of knowledge, experience, expertise and passion for the families she has served over the years." In years past, Dr. Bird would travel daily across the difficult roads and hilly terrain of the country to multiple clinic locations seeing hundreds of children each day. Her routine was to see every patient who needed her, resulting in many nights having to spend the night because it was too late to drive home.

While these days Dr. Bird has reduced her daily schedule, she hasn't lessened her commitment to the children of St. Lucia and the region. In addition to her traveling clinic bus, Dr. Bird also hosts a local live call-in television show weekly called Health Call. Additionally she routinely returns to her native country of Antigua to visit her aging mother and help friends and family members rebuild after Hurricane Irma.

The youthful sixty-year-old speculates she might retire in another ten years, but she cannot imagine doing anything else. "Each sick child has a story that will break your heart. Where you live should not determine whether you live or die. Seeing these children thrive is my reward."