the karen dale story
Message from our Founder
The Karen Dale Foundation was founded in memory of my sister, Karen Dionne “Dale” Burkett. Her friends and colleagues knew her as Karen but our family called her Dale. She passed away at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital in St. Ann, Jamaica, on September 7, 2017, at the age of 48, after a few months of doctors trying to control the frequent seizures she was having and trying to figure out the cause. The summer of 2017 was a very tough period for our family and continues to be so even years later.
During this journey it became apparent to me that there is a serious lack of resources in Jamaica's healthcare system and, specifically from my experience, in the parish of St. Ann at the St. Ann's Bay Hospital. Each time my sister needed a CT Scan, she had to be transported to a private Imaging Center in the neighboring town of Ocho Rios (about 20 minutes way) because the hospital does not have a CT Scanner. At one point the doctors determined that she needed to have an MRI done. The hospital does not have an MRI machine and the closest Imaging Center with an MRI machine is in Montego Bay which is about 2 hours away. Once she was stable enough to travel it took 3 attempts to get her to Montego Bay because each time there was an issue with the hospital’s ambulances and we finally had to pay for a private ambulance through the Red Cross. There was also a need for a Ventilator which the hospital did not have and she had to do without it. This is just what we experienced and the more people I share this story with, the more I hear about similar experiences at different Public Hospitals in Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands.
When services/resources are not available at the public hospitals, patients are forced to go to private facilities to get the treatment and tests they need and payment is required up front. In third-world countries, a large percentage of the population cannot afford to make these payments and therefore they are not able to get these lifesaving treatments and tests.
There is also a serious shortage of some Medical Specialists. Although a plan was being put in motion for my sister to see a Neurologist, at that time there were only 4 Neurologists practicing in Jamaica and all 4 were in the Kingston area which is another 2+ hour journey away. As we called each of the 4 Neurologists, we found out that 1 was not accepting new patients and unfortunately, my sister passed way before she ever got to see a Neurologist.
If you cannot identify with life in a third-world country then consider this scenario:
You are on vacation in the popular tourist destination of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. While on vacation you unfortunately have an accident that requires you to be admitted to the nearest hospital and that hospital would be the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital. You, in that moment, would be subject to the same experience as the citizens of the community, feeling the impact of the lack of or limited resources. The only difference is that as soon as you are stable enough to travel you will probably be on the next flight to Miami to get quality health care at a well-equipped hospital with available Medical Specialists.
As we were going through this journey with her, I kept saying that when this is all over (not thinking it would end in her death; we were very hopeful and prayerful) I have to do something about this and in some small way, try to make a difference in the community where I grew up. In my years serving as a Rotarian in Rotary District 7680, I have learned that it only takes one person to make a difference and this is what we hope to do with this Foundation.
Our focus on health is very personal because of this experience. We hope to help provide much needed medical equipment and supplies to the communities that need them and implement Telemedicine Programs that will provide access to Medical Specialists without having to travel. We are also focused on education because my sister was an avid reader and always had the desire to further her education. I also believe that education can change the trajectory of a child’s life and improve their life’s circumstances.
I hope you will join us on this journey and support the work we do to improve the quality of life in underserved communities through health and education.