hemophilia on an island

Island Paradise or Prison?

After
escaping a major snow storm that grounded 50% of flights at Logan, I boarded JetBlue
to New York on Thursday, then Bridgetown, Barbados, and then my real destination, St.
Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), a nation composed of five islands. I was last here
in 2001—13 long years ago—to meet the Fordes, a family with hemophilia on the remote island of Mayreau. It’s
not easy to get to. After a one night stop over in Kingstown, the capital of SVG, and a meeting with the
lovely Dr. Bhattarai Datta, a pediatrician who wants to start a hemophilia organization,
I had a short flight, over to Union Island in a private plane, owned and 

Laurie Kelley with Dr. Bhattari Datta

piloted by Martin Jennett,
a suntanned, charming and wry Scotsman who has lived here since the 1970s. He
showed up in shorts and flip-flops, and said climb in! His Grumman American
Tiger—which he says is “just my car”— is compact, cute, nimble and does the
job, just like its owner. His gorgeous clipper Scaramouche was used in the Pirates of the Caribbean!


.

We were airborne
at once and pierced the clouds. They billowed on my right, the sun heating
them. On my left, islands and turquoise waters. Mayreau eventually appeared; we
have to technically fly over it to get to Union Island, where there is a runway.
From the air, Mayreau was splayed like a green starfish floating on the sea.
Seeing Kishroy for the first time in 13 years!

Splayed like a green starfish on the sea: Mayreau

At Union Island,
I met Glenroy, the captain of a boat which transfers the high school kids on Mayreau to Union every day! He introduced me on the dock to Nancy and husband Lorne, a
couple from Nova Scotia, who were also heading to Mayreau. And on the docks is where I met up with Kishroy Forde, who I
last saw in 2001, when he was only 6! He shyly walked around me, unsure if it
was me, and said hi, and I recognized him immediately. I gave him a hug, big
smile and we chatted. He is 6’2” now, a far cry from the skinny little boy that I put on my knee then.
The ride over
was nice, my hair was a disastrous mess, and I mostly listened to Nancy, who
shared how she and Lorne had bought a house a few years ago as a winter retreat
here, but who have been coming here for 20 years.
At Mayreau, Kishroy’s
dad Aldolphus met us at the dock. Dennis, owner of Dennis’s Hideaway, where I
would be staying, had sent a driver to pick me up in the strangest truck ever.
It looked like it was pieced together bit by bit from scrap metal from anything
handy. It was amazing that it could run. There was no dash, just open wires; no
steering column cover. Everything exposed and jerry rigged haphazardly. The
door would shut only with a lot of outside assistance. You do whatever you must to keep going here.
Dennis’s
Hideaway was written up recently in Outside Magazine as a place to try. It’s where I
stayed 13 years ago and it’s pretty much the same. A bit rustic, but from
my room, a great view of Mayreau Bay, and Kishroy’s house. It was nice to see
Dennis again. He’s a bit grizzled, but still flashes a broad smile. I invited
Nancy and Lorne, Kishroy and Aldolphus to dinner at Dennis’s that evening. We gathered at 7 pm first by the round, hardwood bar, where Dennis joined
us. He told us stories about various visitors, and how one woman came back to stay a week, and asked if he recognized her.
He said no. She said last time she had been there he had proposed marriage to
her! We laughed. I said, “So you probably don’t remember me from 2001?” He
paused and asked, “Did I propose to you too?” We all laughed again.
We called it a
night at 9 pm; the mosquitoes were biting and their bites sting with impunity.
They call these mosquitoes “noseeims,” as in “No see them.” Really.
Saturday February 8, 2014
Kishroy with Adolphus
Kishroy showed
up at 8 am or so, and we took it slow that morning. First, to his house, to
unload gifts. He has an islander’s walk, shuffling and unhurried, saying hello
to everyone. We walked about 20 paces, took a left behind a little bar, and hiked the worn path, matted with leaves, lined with some trash but maintained
by goats tied to posts. Some mixed breed dogs pranced out to announce my
arrival, followed by pups. Once Kishroy put them at ease, they baptized me with
their tongues, tails wagging so hard their torsos were shaken from side to side.
The simple wood slat home
has deteriorated a bit, and most definitely lacks a woman’s touch—Kishroy’s
mother left the family years ago. There is an outhouse and a rain vat. Kishroy shows me his Spartan room, and given
that this may be his home for life, I vow to get him a bedspread and matching
curtains next time I come. His cousin Tevin is with him. We unload the gifts: a
Bible, pens, books (like Fantastic Voyage,
about scientists shrunken to travel through the blood stream), a waterproof
expedition watch for him and his father, and wallets. Neither had a wallet.
Kishroy was delighted. And even more with the factor that next was retrieved!
Spartan bedroom
Kishroy’s house
Kishroy is going
to get a passport so we can try to get him medical attention for his elbow,
which does not bend beyond 90°. I’m not sure what can be done, but we need to
at least find the answer and learn his options. But he needs to go to the
States for this.
Next we take a
walk. Behind his house are his uncle’s houses. Adolphus, his father, is one of
seven sons: Claude, Samuel, John, then Adolphus, Job, “Nomo” (not his real
name, but nicknamed such because his mother declared that after that baby there
would be “no mo’.”) and Alvin (apparently her plan failed!). It’s clear that Kishroy, despite the risk of
living on an island that just got electricity within the last 7 years, and is
accessible only by boat, with no medical care, is surrounded by a tight-knit
and plentiful family. In that way, he is richer than a lot of people I know.
One school house for all ages
Roman Catholic Church
We stroll up to
the schoolhouse, where about 70 children all sit in one room. And the Roman
Catholic Church, quite pretty and well-maintained, where almost everyone goes
to church. Then we hike around the perimeter of the island, admiring the sun sparkling on the sea, and the various shades of blue. We eventually end up at
Nancy and Lorne’s cottage, and they invite us in, despite all the yard work they
are in the midst of. A few minutes turns into 90, and we eat lunch and I listen
to how Nancy sat with various elder women on the island to capture their
stories for a book she authored. She gives me a copy, and one for John, Kishroy’s sponsor.
I can’t wait to read this. She has I think for the first time preserved a piece
of history of Mayreau.
Lorne and Nancy
After lunch we
head for the beach, and climb on the dock, where some young boys are fishing.
We need gas, and the guys load up the boat with empty containers. While we wait,
Kishroy opens up a bit. I ask about his father’s fishing; how often? Where?
Home made boat
“He goes away
sometimes for a day, sometimes for t’ree weeks,” he says simply. You miss him.
“Yes…” And adds softly and suddenly, “I miss by brother too.”
I was hoping we
could somehow speak about this, but island culture is very different than our
North American bare-all culture. Tragedies are not spoken about much. Kishroy’s
little brother Kishron died of a GI bleed quite a few years ago. I had noticed
his pictures that I took of him from 2001 set on the one piece of furniture in
the living room.
Chillin’ at Lorne and Nancy’s
“I know you do,”
I replied. “I miss him too. He was a good boy.” And talk turned to who was
Kishroy’s best friend now? “Antonio,” and Kishroy smiles. I would meet him
later that day.
Stunning Caribbean Sea

The boat was
ready, so we gingerly stepped in, balancing dock to rocking dugout; I started
doing the splits with one foot on the boat and one on the dock as the boat
suddenly drifted away. Thankfully Tevin grabs me and keeps me from plunging in!

A very fast
speedboat ride, crashing through the mild waves and dousing us with salty water,
to get to a neighboring island about 30 minutes away to get the cheapest gas
around: about $7 US a gallon! Everything on an island that must be imported is
expensive, and almost everything must be imported. We finally pull up; my hair
looks ghastly, my sunglasses are salty and coated but what a great ride!
Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau
After we load up
with an amazing amount of gas (must have been 50 gallons or more), just sitting
in the boat at our feet we head out again. I realize we don’t have life
jackets, or a radio, or much of anything safety wise, and now have a boatload
of gasoline. Yikes.
We tour for the
next 90 minutes all around the islands and cays. We see in the distance the
small island where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. We see pretty green
turtles poke their heads out of the water, staring at us with dull eyes. The
water is a startling, pure turquoise, like a liquid gem. The sun beats down in
us, despite the breeze and wind, and I am soon sizzling red.
We head back and
in minutes are back at Mayreau Bay. I head up to Dennis’s to change. We later
meet up at Kishroy’s house. En route in the dark, we spy Nancy and Lorne on the
street and say our goodbyes and hugs. Maybe it’s the atmosphere, or being on
such a remote and sparsely populated place that makes you need to get along,
but you feel closer to people here. Nancy told me only last year for the first
time did the island finally get a policeman. A vet comes to the island once a
week (there is a problem with too many dogs); a nurse also comes once or twice.
If you get really sick at night, you must take a boat to get to Union, and the
facilities there are a bit scary. Martin simply says, “Get to Martinique if you
need medical attention.” And I am sure that’s not just a ploy to hire his
aircraft.
Kishroy 2014
Kishroy (L) and Kishron, 2001
So for Kishroy,
it’s a risk daily to live here. But tonight we celebrate. Unknown to me, Adolphus
awoke predawn and went fishing, and came home with two gorgeous lobsters. He’s
as good a cook as he is a fisherman. With fresh salad, rice, potatoes and
lobster, this is a meal fit for royalty. We sit outside on this wooden deck, in
the dark, very simple, but with so much elegance and respect. He is a man of
few words; but I know when I am being thanked. I also note that lobsters are
his main source of income; to give away two is a sacrifice. And I note further
that Adolphus, for all his lack of education, humility, and humble home, has
given me an entire lobster; Kishroy gets the tail of the second, where the
succulent meat is of course, leaving Adolphus the head and chest, where there
is virtually no meat. I am always struck by the true class some of the poorest
people exhibit, and which is so lacking in many of the well-to-do.
 
We pop open some
champagne and toast ourselves. And I split the lobster tail and share with
Adolphus. A grand meal, a way to say thanks for all those who sponsor Kishroy
(first the Castaldo family years ago, and now John Parler) and for those who
donate factor. We are all keeping him alive and well. In his slight, faint
voice, accented with the British lilt of the islands, he says, “T’anks for the
factor and the sponsorship.” Nothing more need be said. 

Some parts of Mayreau are poorer than others

We walk back in the
darkness, skirting frisky dogs and a random goat, listening to the blaring and
pounding of the karaoke bars nearby, stars above, ocean surf ever present, and
say good bye at the gate of Dennis’s Hideaway. What a difference 24 hours
makes. What a difference shared lives make. What a privilege to be here.

He’s got factor now!

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