Verna White-Brown is now of super woman fame, having delivered more than 3000 babies during the 47 years of stellar service she gave to a chain of rural St Catherine communities, including Lluidas Vale, Top Hill, Pennington, Juan-de-Bolas, Tydixon, and Lemon Hall.
“There were a lot of deliveries, up and down the rough roads night and day, climbing up in trucks to travel to assist mothers,” said the registered midwife, affectionately called Nurse Brown. “If I had to, I would do it all over again.”
Nurse Brown’s decades of service through Lluidas Vale Health Centre commenced on 20 December 1971 when she was 23 years old.
She recalled that, at the time she started, the health centre was just moved from the community market to the present location. The community had no registered midwife for some five years until she arrived there.
Nurse Brown initially gave 37 years of service until retirement at age 60. A few months later, she was pulled out of retirement for another 10 years, giving contracted service up to June this year.
“I had a lot of experiences; praise God I have not lost any ‘negligence’ case,” the 70-year-old midwife extraordinaire declared. “I love people; I work for people. Whether they are rich – whether they are poor, I work for them.”
She wants to be remembered as a professional who went beyond the call of duty. “Remember me as the nurse or the midwife who has the people at heart,” Nurse Brown told The Beacon. “Some people get complacent when they are at a particular place long enough; I was not that type of nurse.”
The mother of two sons and two daughters also noted that, throughout her years of service, she received big support from her nuclear family, especially her husband Felix Brown. “I got married to a very lovely young man who stood by me all the way,” she added.
He acted as her chauffeur in the latter years when she acquired a vehicle. Nurse Brown said she initially travelled through the hard-to-reach rural communities on foot or by being offered rides in trucks.
Despite the ups and downs through the various communities, Nurse Brown would still show up at the health centre in Lluidas Vale to serve residents.
“Even when I stayed out late at night assisting with births, I had to go to work at the clinic the next morning because the people were there waiting for clinics,” she explained. “Sometimes while I was conducting clinics, I got calls [to help mothers in the communities]. I had to leave the clinic; the patients there would go away and come back.”
People were considerate, Nurse Brown declared. “I think I have gained the respect of the community. If you show respect, the people will respect you.”
Nurse Brown, who made Lluidas Vale her home shortly after she started to work there, is originally from the neighbouring Point Hill district.
Reflecting on her childhood in Point Hill, St Catherine, Nurse Brown, who was raised by her paternal grandmother Esther Lee, stated that she attended Point Hill Leased Primary School.
“I didn’t go to high school because I stayed with my grandmother,” she added. “Everybody left her; I stayed with her.”
Nurse Brown, who became fascinated with nursing at an early age, disclosed that she was inspired by the image of a nurse who often passed through her Point Hill community in a ‘pretty’ white uniform. She dreamed that, one day, she too would wear that uniform.
She took the first step to realize that dream when she enrolled in a special programme at Victoria Jubilee Hospital. She underwent rigorous training there, and then did job experience at Kitson Town Health Centre.
Nurse Brown, in 1990, pursued further studies to become a midwife supervisor (Grade 3). She later supervised nurses in communities such as Point Hill, Kitson Town, Water Mount, Old Harbour, and part of Bartons.
She inspired many other nurses. “The salary might not be up to scratch, but you get the satisfaction out of doing the job right,” Nurse Brown told The Beacon. “This profession is one of the most important professions any young person can take up. It is all about love; it is all about caring for people.”
Mr Brown, in the meantime, said his wife is not only an exceptional healthcare provider. “She is an excellent wife; she is very careful and caring to me as a husband and to the children. She makes every effort to see that everybody is well taken care of,” Mr Brown declared.
He stated that, although he supported his wife in the execution of her duties, he was sometimes uncomfortable with her nocturnal trips to deliver babies – especially from a security standpoint.
“Whenever people came to get her at night, I would make sure I checked to see who she was going with,” Mr Brown explained. He noted that his wife never fell victim to any crime during her many trips throughout the villages.
Mr Brown, like his wife, is not originally from Lluidas Vale. He hails from a community in Westmoreland called Pittersville. He, in April 1971, went to Lluidas Vale and initially worked at the skills training centre there. He later became employed to Worthy Park Sugar Estate, where he spent 40 years.
Mr Brown did a bit of photography. He told The Beacon that his love affair with Nurse Brown actually started after he took some photos for her and her mom Estella Lynch.
The two wedded on 8 September 1973.
By Horace Mills, Journalist