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Urgent Call to Action: Nephrologist Highlights Dialysis Dilemma

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German-born nephrologist, Dr. Walter Rohloff, emphasized the critical state of dialysis services during his testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services this Wednesday. His comprehensive address shed light on the escalating challenge in the USVI, explored alternatives beyond the territory, and proposed a roadmap to enhance local treatment.

Dr. Rohloff shared alarming statistics – in the US, one in every 13 individuals of African descent is predicted to encounter end-stage kidney disease in their lifetime. “The situation is even more dire in the Caribbean, where the figure stands at one in 10,” he added.

He drew attention to the surging number of end-stage kidney disease patients, marking it as a grave concern. Over the past three decades, the count of individuals requiring dialysis in the territory has quadrupled from about 50 to over 200. Dr. Rohloff mentioned, “A total of 219 Virgin Islanders, residing on both St. Croix and St. Thomas, are currently dependent on dialysis services. Additionally, between 20 to 40 patients are off-island, unable to return due to inadequate outpatient dialysis facilities. While some have initiated home dialysis, the lack of this option locally hinders their transition back.”

Residents of St. John and Water Island face a bleak scenario with no dialysis facilities available, necessitating thrice-weekly commutes to St. Thomas for four-hour dialysis sessions, he elaborated.

Dr. Rohloff underlined the financial strain and personnel shortage plaguing dialysis centers, recounting a recent Senate resolution to allocate $72,000 bi-weekly to support Caribbean Kidney Center, a private dialysis provider. He cautioned that without a substantial transformation in the dialysis treatment landscape, such scenarios would recur, impacting both private and public providers.

To pivot away from this troubling trajectory, the lead at The Kidney Center on St. Thomas delineated a six-pronged strategy. This includes introducing new treatment alternatives like kidney disease mitigation programs or home dialysis; reducing the patient load through preventive outreach programs; enhancing patient survival and life quality via transplantation or home dialysis; bolstering service quality and stability through improved staff retention and training, financial stability, and emergency preparedness; and finally, achieving financial self-sufficiency to minimize reliance on governmental aid.

Home dialysis emerged as a focal point in Dr. Rohloff’s discourse. He highlighted its cost-effectiveness and lessened dependency on resources like staffing. Unlike in-center dialysis, home dialysis empowers patients with more control, requiring only monthly medical consultations, he explained. The modality can endure post-disaster scenarios, offering a vital lifeline in storm-hit regions.

However, the dearth of skilled personnel, partly due to brain drain, has hampered the successful implementation of home dialysis in the territory. Dr. Rohloff proposed aligning with prominent national kidney care entities to overcome this hurdle, thereby unlocking cost savings and consolidating essential services.

He also applauded the forthcoming Dialysis Clinic Inc-operated center in St. Croix, anticipating it would bridge many existing service gaps. Dr. Rohloff voiced his support for the VI Healthcare Foundation’s efforts in establishing the new clinic, encouraging legislative backing to overcome the final financial barrier.

The Senators, while intrigued, exhibited caution, particularly around the self-discipline required for home dialysis adherence. Senator Marise James questioned the patients’ ability to self-administer dialysis daily. Committee Chair Senator Ray Fonseca directed Dr. Rohloff to liaise with Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion for a thorough review and approval of his proposal before revisiting the Committee for further discussions.

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USVI Community Pulse

BLACKFULLNESS: Emancipation 2024 Art Exhibition Opens at Fort Frederik Museum

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The highly anticipated third annual Emancipation Art Exhibition is scheduled to open this Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Fort Frederik Museum. This year’s theme, BLACKFULLNESS, was announced by Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Curated by Monica Marin, Chief Curator of the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums, the exhibition invites artists from the Virgin Islands, the African-Caribbean Diaspora, and those connected to the region to showcase their work.

Featured artists include Waldermar Brodhurst, Jeffrey Rezende, Victoria Rivera, Elisa Mackay, Danica Davis, Niarus Walker, Adrian Edwards, Ray Llanos, La Vaughn Belle, Quiana Adams, Elwin Joseph, Stuart Rames, Mike Walsh, Danielle Kearns, Rob Gigsun, Therese Trudeau, Eric Paxton, A’we Study Group featuring Sayeeda Carter, Kemit Amon-Lewis, Oceana James, and Nina Mercer, among others.

The term BLACKFULLNESS, coined by the late Black feminist Audre Lorde, describes the profound sense of belonging and purpose she felt within the majority Black community of St. Croix. In her interview titled Above the Wind, Lorde reflected on how St. Croix helped her heal and become more active as an artist and human-rights activist. Similarly, many creatives from the United States have been inspired by the vibrant energy of the Virgin Islands community, which has served as a beacon of light and inspiration.

“This year’s exhibition spotlights the spirit of resistance that is at the core of Virgin Islanders’ identity and that is etched into everything that makes Virgin Islands’ cultural production so powerful,” stated Marin. “It calls attention to how Black protest, art, and activism in our region have influenced international Black brilliance and liberation.”

Admission to the exhibition is $10 per person, with free entry for students aged 17 and under. Additionally, there will be a free viewing on Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The exhibition will run through October, and visitors can view it during the Fort Frederik Museum’s regular hours: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, please contact Monica Marin at [email protected] or call 340-772-2021.

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Emancipation in the USVI: Celebrating Freedom and Resilience

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Today, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) commemorate Emancipation Day, a significant public holiday marking the abolition of slavery in the Danish West Indies on July 3, 1848. This day stands as a testament to the strength and determination of the enslaved Africans who fought for and won their freedom 176 years ago.

Historical Background

The journey to emancipation in the USVI began under Danish rule in the 17th century, with the trans-Atlantic slave trade starting around 1673. Enslaved Africans were primarily forced to labor on sugarcane plantations under harsh and inhumane conditions. This oppressive environment led to several revolts, including a notable six-month rebellion on Saint John in 1733.

The pivotal moment came on July 3, 1848, when over 8,000 enslaved people, led by Moses Gottlieb (also known as General Buddhoe), initiated a non-violent uprising on Saint Croix. Overwhelmed by the scale of the revolt, Danish Governor Peter von Scholten declared the immediate emancipation of all slaves in the Danish West Indies, preempting an earlier plan to gradually abolish slavery by 1859​.

Celebrations and Events

Emancipation Day is celebrated with a variety of events that reflect the rich cultural heritage and enduring spirit of the Virgin Islanders. This year’s festivities include:

  • Freedom Walk: A symbolic journey from Fort Christian to Fort Frederik, held at dawn, honors the path to freedom taken by the ancestors.
  • Emancipation Day Parade: Starting at the Frederiksted Post Office, the parade showcases vibrant cultural displays and community participation.
  • Official Ceremony: Held at Buddhoe Park, this ceremony includes speeches, performances, and a reflection on the historical significance of the day.
  • Luncheon and Festivals: “Freedom, Feast & Folklore” luncheon on the Frederiksted Pier, followed by an evening of music and fireworks at the “Unshackled Music Festival” in Freedom City​.

Reflecting on the Past, Embracing the Future

Emancipation Day is not just a day of celebration but also a time for reflection on the struggles and sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom. The commemoration underscores the importance of remembering history and continuing the journey towards equality and justice. As Carol Burke, chair of the Emancipation Committee, emphasized, this day serves as a “springboard to a brighter, better-defined future” for all Virgin Islanders​​.

By honoring this day, the USVI acknowledges the resilience and bravery of its ancestors while inspiring current and future generations to uphold the values of freedom and equality. Emancipation Day in the USVI is a powerful reminder of the triumph of the human spirit against oppression and the ongoing pursuit of justice and dignity for all.

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Kayaking Through Salt River Kicks Off Coral Reef Week Festivities

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The East End Marine Park is launching a series of events in celebration of “Coral Reef Week,” beginning with an engaging kayak tour by BushTribe Eco Adventures on Sunday morning.

The aim of “Coral Reef Week” is to foster a connection between Virgin Islanders and marine ecosystems through a variety of enjoyable and free public activities.

Guides Travis McRae and Ty McRae from BushTribe Eco Adventures led participants on a two-hour educational tour through Salt River National Park. The event began with a safety briefing and an introductory lesson on kayaking.

Before embarking on their adventure, attendees received essential safety instructions and kayaking tips from the experienced guides.

While paddling through the serene waters of Salt River National Park on St. Croix’s north side, participants learned about local ecosystems, the park’s history, and intriguing facts about St. Croix.

Ty McRae shared that BushTribe Eco Adventures was founded 12 years ago with a mission to offer personalized, educational experiences in small group settings. In addition to kayak tours, BushTribe provides hikes to tide pools, bioluminescent kayak trips, and moonlight night kayaking.

For the remainder of Coral Reef Week, BushTribe Eco Adventures is offering free tours. To join the waitlist, text 340-277-2503. For bookings and more information, visit BushTribe’s website.

Other events scheduled for Coral Reef Week include:

  • Ocean-Inspired Art Exhibit: From July 2 to July 6 at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, showcasing community-created art inspired by the ocean.
  • Coral Nursery Tour: On July 2 at the Nature Conservancy in Little Princess Coral Hub, featuring a guided tour of the coral nursery.
  • Youth Dive Day and Snorkel Clinic: On July 3, with a kids’ activity corner at Frederiksted Beach Pavilion from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more details, contact Alex at [email protected].
  • Beach Clean-Up: At Cottages by the Sea on July 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Ecovan Pop-Up: At the market in Christiansted on July 5 from 9 a.m. to noon, offering fun activities, prizes, and coral reef information.
  • Movie Night: At Leatherback Brewery starting at 7 p.m.

For additional information on these events, contact Alex at 340-718-3367 or [email protected].

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