In 2012, Scott Doherty made his first trip to Jamaica, taking his family and church’s youth group on a mission trip. There they visited Manchester Infirmary — a care facility for those with disabilities in Mandeville, where Doherty met a bedridden, ailing man named Humphrey.
“He had a stroke and been in his bed for eight years, just waiting to die,” Doherty says. “He told me, ‘All I have is my faith, and I’m waiting for my savior to come and meet me.’”
Before he left Humphrey’s bedside, Doherty slipped a green wristband onto the man’s hand. Engraved on it were the name of Doherty’s daughter Brooke and two Bible verses: Psalms 73:26 and Philippians 4:13. Doherty departed back to Kalamazoo knowing he would return.
Back in the U.S., Doherty became a cofounder and organizing director at Jamaica Rehab Partners — a nonprofit organization designed to provide sustainable, rehabilitative therapies for poor people in Jamaica. Doherty, who is vice president for the Midwest region of medical consulting firm Med-Vision, travels from Kalamazoo to Jamaica once a year, meeting and helping people like Humphrey. While he’s proud of making a difference, Doherty is more proud of his daughter Brooke, who inspired him to make that difference.
In 2010, Brooke, then a freshman at Grand Valley State University, went on a spring break mission trip to Jamaica to help with construction and farming projects at Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf’s Knockpatrick campus, which is a boarding school for deaf children in Mandeville.
She discovered firsthand the great need for medical resources in Jamaica.
She returned home for the summer and positioned herself for a summer job as a lifeguard, but first she needed surgery to correct a heart defect. Something went amiss during the operation and she didn’t receive enough oxygen, leaving the 18-year-old in a coma and with significant brain damage.
Brooke spent the next several months in recovery, spending six hours a day for two months in occupational therapy, relearning how to walk, talk and eat. But even during her struggles, the lack of resources in Jamaica still bothered her.
“She said, ‘Dad, I want to do something for the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf, so let’s go collect bottles and cans door-to-door,’” Doherty recalls.
Doherty and his church’s youth group collected about $2,000 worth of bottles and cans in one year to be donated to the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf. When Doherty visited the center’s website to research the soon-to-be beneficiary of Brooke’s initiative, he found out the center had a worship team composed of deaf Jamaican students who synchronized sign language with music. The group was touring in West Michigan, and Doherty wanted to bring the ministry to his church, but the group’s schedule was booked. He shut down his laptop and headed to his car to take Brooke to rehab. Then his phone rang. The man on the other end of the line introduced himself as Marc White from the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf.
“He said, ‘We’ve been praying for your daughter,” Doherty says. “We’re in your area. I wonder if we can come and see her.’”
Doherty says he choked up and could barely verbalize a response through his tears.
“I was absolutely overwhelmed. When you experience God’s presence, it’s such a powerful wave.”
Soon after, Doherty visited Jamaica for the first time and saw for himself the dramatic discrepancy in medical resources between Jamaica and the U.S.
“Brooke was able to make great progress because we have better resources here in the United States,” Doherty says. “People in Jamaica suffering from disabilities are basically throwaways because they don’t know what to do with them. They just don’t have the resources.”
Motivated to make a difference, Doherty helped establish Jamaica Rehab Partners with faculty members from Calvin College, Grand Valley State University, and Western Michigan University and physical therapists Leah and Joe Walters. The organization provides field experience opportunities for students in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and audiology therapy, and nursing programs at those colleges. Students team up with professionals in these fields and travel to Jamaica to provide therapy and other health services to patients at various medical facilities.
“Our objective is to enhance their quality of life and promote independence,” Doherty says.
Last year, Doherty made his third trip to Jamaica, where an old friend was waiting. “When I saw Humphrey, he was still wearing the wristband,” Doherty says.
The highlight of the trip came when Jamaica Rehab Partners staff wheeled Humphrey outside of the infirmary, and, with their assistance, Humphrey walked for the first time in nearly 10 years.
“It was unreal — very emotional,” Doherty says.
Jamaica Rehab Partners continues to expand, and Doherty hopes to establish a clinic in Jamaica. Brooke is thriving as well. Now a senior at WMU majoring in interdisciplinary health services, she’s preparing to pursue a master’s degree in rehab counseling and serves on Jamaica Rehab
Partners’ board of directors. She was recently awarded a Mary Free Bed Minority and Disability Scholarship for the second time.
“We are inspired by her determination to recover — her passion and desire to improve the lives of other people, especially those who don’t have the same resources as she,” says Doherty.
To learn more about Jamaica Rehab Partners, visit the organization’s Facebook page: facebook.com/pages/Jamaica-Rehab-Partners.