Northeast State Technical Community College, Tennessee
Fortunately for Kelly Wirt-Abon and the people she treated in the Marshall Islands, she remembered many of the critical lessons she learned from her paramedic instructor at Northeast State Technical Community College. Those lessons, like how to deliver a baby, came in handy. Wirt-Abon delivered more than 500 babies during the five and a half years she was the primary healthcare provider in Majuro, a village in the Marshall Islands.
Her challenges on the impoverished equatorial island --about five and half hours by plane from Hawaii -- were unique. Diabetes, tuberculosis and leprosy were some of the chronic illnesses Wirt-Abon dealt with daily. She also sutured shark bites and treated serious jellyfish stings and other ailments.
Wirt-Abon went to the Marshall Islands in 1996 for Mission Pacific, a non-profit, Christian organization. The mission team helped her to renovate the clinic and installed an air conditioner. It initially attracted villagers, who were skeptical about her health services but wanted to get out of the heat. The stories they shared while cooling off helped Wirt-Abon learn their language and culture.
Kelly and her husband returned to Tennessee last year. She hopes to return to the Marshall Islands to continue her work on the beautiful island.