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Jerome becomes Chief Medical Officer!

From British Honduras to Belize: one family’s drama - a novel written by the late Chrystel Lynwood Hyde Straughan

Chapter 56
The month of September had been spent in celebration of the country’s Independence, which entailed Jewel’s travelling to the capital with baby Neville on two occasions in order to accompany Jerome to obligatory official functions of both the “retiring” and the “new” governments, all of which we had attended together, with Safira doing duty as baby sitter at Lloyd and Sonia’s home, Mr. Reg and Matron also having been invitees to the same functions.

Lucille and Abel had agreed to stay with Miss Millicent and the other children when Jewel came to the capital and, from all reports, they had all had a grand time together. Unfortunately, that was not the case with Jewel, who had spent her time on these occasions worrying and anxious about her baby and the children, and longing for things to get back to normal, meanwhile making a graceful impression in the clothes created for her by Gertrude. Jerome hovered over her solicitously, reassuring her while beaming with appreciation at her elegant appearance.


In early October after the celebrations, Jerome received an invitation from the Prime Minister to call on him at his office to discuss an important matter, at which time he had been offered and accepted the post of Chief Medical Officer and Head of the Medical Services as of January 1st of the following year, on the retirement of Dr. Branch from that post at the end of the current year.

The offer had not been unexpected, Jerome’s being the most senior of the remaining professional staff, besides having served in that capacity on many occasions before when the office holder had been absent on furlough; and, although the appointment would come with a small increase in salary but heavy increase in responsibilities, in addition to those as Chief Surgical Officer, the government of our newly independent country had anticipated acceptance by Jerome, knowing of both his professional commitment and strong patriotism. One thing that neither he nor they knew as yet was that Sister Havers and her husband were arranging for a generous endowment to the Surgery section of the Department, to be administered by the Chief Surgical Officer, becoming effective January 1st, 1982.

When Jerome responded to the Prime Minister in the affirmative, the orderly transfer of duties had been immediately set in motion; and it was four weekends before Jewel and the family saw him in person, although there had been greatly increased traffic by telephone.

One reaction to the news by the Department’s overall staff had been the prediction that there were rough times ahead for the “slackers,” as Jerome was likely to bring performance of all personnel on par with that of the Surgery section, which was exemplary. I must add, also, that there was distinct pride in having a “national” as department head, carrying the expectation and confidence that with his leadership we would be up to the challenge of taking care of ourselves.

Countries surrounding us, as well as fellow Commonwealth members and others in the United Nations Organization, pledged friendship and support, for which we were grateful, and we stepped out on the world stage in all confidence that a benign Providence would provide us with the necessary guidance to succeed.


At the beginning of the New Year one of the first things that Jerome did on learning of the Haverses’ endowment was to contact Doctor Serrano and solicit his help in identifying an experienced surgeon on the verge of retirement who might be disposed to serve in our territory for a few years, in an effort to strengthen the surgical team temporarily until Dr. Serrano’s return. This was something they had talked about before his departure, and he had promised to keep his eye open for such a possibility. The availability of funds now for such a purpose made the search more urgent; and, luckily for us, by the end of the fiscal year in March, 1982, an African-American ex-colleague of Dr. Serrano, who had retired a couple years before but who had become disenchanted with having too much time on his hands, had been found to fill the bill and was willing to get back into harness to assist for a few years with the new country’s venture into Independence. There having been no difficulty in securing the agreement of the newly appointed Minister of Health to accept Jerome’s recommendation, Dr. Randolph Grant was offered a three-year contract beginning June 1st that same year.

With his arrival, the appointment of a national to the post of Senior Medical Officer and two new appointments from among recent graduates of the regional university to fill long-standing vacancies on the staff, Jerome was soon able to resume visits home more regularly!


You can imagine the joy in the extended family when Alida sent us the news on her birthday that, having completed her residency, she was ready, willing and now available to return home to serve in the Medical Department of her country! It was then that we had first heard of the problem she had had concerning her love life.

She had taken Jewel’s advice and shared with Dr. Taylor her disappointment at the way he, who claimed to love her, had taken upon himself the right to decide her future without first consulting her about her priorities. He had been apologetic for his behaviour, which had been due to his discomfort at what appeared to be her closeness with her other admirer despite having declared her love for him. Dr. Taylor had been disturbed at hearing of their plans to do their residency at the same hospital, and this had triggered his effort to separate Alida and his competitor. She had been successful instead in being able to do her residency at a hospital in the town in South Carolina where he had settled, and they had agreed that she would return to serve here at home whilst they would pursue their plans individually for a time, maintaining contact and reviewing their situation at timely intervals.
With Alida joining the hospital staff on August 1, 1982 a new period of stability began not only in the Surgery section but in the whole department. However, with increased responsibility on Jerome’s shoulders, it had become difficult for a period of time for him to plan ahead to spend much time at home with Jewel and the children. Fortunately, their marriage had been strong enough to sustain the absences and they were able to make the most of their moments together.


At the end of her first year of service, Alida was paid a surprise visit by Kevin Taylor, who had made hotel reservations for overnight and turned up at the hospital office on a Monday, asking for and introducing himself to the Hospital Administrator as a friend of his daughter’s, and asking to see her.

As it happened, Alida had spent that entire morning in Surgery with Jerome on a specially scheduled session and had been given the afternoon off by a gratified and proud department head! She was at home relaxing with Mama and Daddy when Nigel called to give her the news, so she had asked him to give her friend directions there.

By the time we had all got home from work that evening, including Jerome, who showed up later, my daughter had already introduced Dr. Taylor to most of the family and invited him to dinner, consisting of a fish dish about which she had boasted, specially prepared for the visitor by Miss Olive.

I am pleased to say that Kevin Taylor made as good an impression on the rest of the family as he had on Lloyd and me nearly nine years before, although I did have some suspicions about the reason for the sudden visit, as had Jerome, I think.

All questions were laid to rest, however, when he informed us that, as he was on his way to South America on a mission on behalf of the State Department, he had decided on touching base with Alida on his way there to see how she was getting on.

As she qualified for two weeks vacation leave at the completion of a year of service, it was an easy matter for Nigel and Jerome between them to arrange the paperwork for Alida to take two days off towards leave accrued so she could spend time with her visitor.


(Chapter 57 in next Tuesday’s issue of the Amandala)

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