News Story

Healing for Body and Soul

Volunteer medical couples inspire greater self-reliance among American Samoans

“Healing for body and soul.” That is the message that a unique medical team delivered recently to attendees at a seminar on self-reliance organized by the Pago Pago Samoa Central Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in American Samoa.

The team consists of two doctors, a social worker and a nurse ─ and they happen to be related.

Dr John Edwards is a successful orthopaedic surgeon specializing in knee replacement. His wife, Becky Edwards, is a licensed clinical social worker trained to assist those dealing with mental health issues, and a former member of the Utah state legislature.

Dr Greg Patch provides diagnostic and interventional radiological expertise to the hospital. And Dr Patch’s wife, Janene Patch, is a registered nurse who assists the hospital in her specialty of labor, delivery and new-borns.

 The members of this dynamic team are serving as welfare and self-reliance missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center in American Samoa.

They were called to go there as part of an 18-month assignment in 2019.

The two doctors were asked to share their expertise with the people of American Samoa by training and supporting medical professionals at LBJ Medical Center.

Dr Edwards has worked specifically to set up the first ever knee replacement clinic in American Samoa. Since his arrival, more than 90 procedures have been done.

Up until their arrival, there had never been a knee replacement capability in American Samoa and patients needing this procedure had to be treated off-island. With help from the Church and other foundations, and support from equipment manufacturers Zimmer and Arthrex, the orthopaedic clinic has grown over the past 14 months and now has the ability to treat many complex medical conditions.

While the team has been here since 2019, this was the first time they had joined together to talk with people about the importance of good health practices that can help maintain one’s body in good condition throughout his or her life.

The team’s message centered on the need for individuals to be responsible for their own health, and in that way, to become more self-reliant.

“This means we need to treat our bodies with respect, like a temple, and think carefully about what we eat and drink, getting proper exercise and our taking care of our mental outlook,” said Dr Edwards.

“We also need to think about our bodies like we do our cars: they need daily, weekly and yearly maintenance in order to be reliable and trouble-free. That means we need to move, and the more we move, the better we feel.”

Janene Patch talked about her work at the Medical Center in caring for new-born babies.

“In my job, I see the miracle of new life happening every day and the unique bond that exists between babies and their mothers. But I also see the recent increase in teen pregnancy and the difficult road ahead for those young children who may grow up with only one parent.”

She emphasized the importance of parents teaching their children the principles found in the document: The Family: A Proclamation to the World. She also stressed the value of family’s regularly spending time together, such as holding what Latter-day Saints call “Family Home Evenings.”

Becky Edwards taught attendees about emotional resilience, giving examples of how to manage stress, anger, frustration, sadness and even loneliness. She also talked about ways to increase emotional wellness by building up reserves of emotional strength to be better prepared for adversity.

Dr Patch reflected on his role in diagnosing injury with his equipment and making recommendations to the orthopaedist. He was sad to say that many of the injuries he sees are the result of violence and reflected on ways to head-off violent behaviours through compassion and dialogue.

He strongly endorsed the principles of the book, “Eat Healthy and Be Active,” as did Dr Edwards.

At the conclusion of their remarks, attendees were invited to have a free check up with Dr Edwards right in the building. Many lined up to wait their turns to get help, some for the first time ever to see an orthopaedic doctor.

The seminar has been offered in every Latter-day Saint stake [group of congregations] in American Samoa and is open to other civic and religious groups that would like to hear about self-reliance.

It will be going next to the island of Manu'a where Church leaders and several other denominations are partnering to co-host the event for all of the 1,400 residents there.

"There have been many who have attended who have heard about the event from members of the Church who invited their friends," said Becky Edwards.

"We are thrilled to have this opportunity to take the principles of self-reliance to so many of the people we love on an island we love too."

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