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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, August 12, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesONE VIRGIN ISLANDER TAKES MATTERS INTO HER OWN HANDS

ONE VIRGIN ISLANDER TAKES MATTERS INTO HER OWN HANDS

May Amritt Villa has lymphedema. And she is doing something about it.
The little-known condition she suffers from is caused by an excessive buildup of lymph fluid, causing swelling primarily in the limbs, but also in other parts of the body.
After years of approaching local government health agencies in search of funding for treatment here, Villa decided to take matters into her own hands.
The agencies were sympathetic, but no funding was available, according to Villa.
"I finally decided if anything was to be done, I had to do it myself," she said. "I tried to think of what I, as just one person, could do — and then I had a brainstorm. I decided to write to all my family and friends."
And so far, she has sent out about 100 letters. At 80 years old, Villa has the strength and determination of someone half her years.
"What should I do?" asks the letter, as it goes on to describe Villa's dilemma and her desire to help others with this cumbersome and painful affliction. Her solution to the problem was to find a St. Thomas massage therapist that she could send to the states for training in lymphedema treatment.
This, of course, would require funding, and so she asked for any contribution, however small, to be sent to the Lymphedema Project account at the Women's League of St. Thomas, which she used to channel the funds. The response to her letter was rapid and gratifying, from both family and friends she hadn't heard from in years.
The next step was to locate a local massage therapist willing to go to the states for the course of instruction. This she found in Colleen Mader, who is now undergoing training at the Academy of Lymphatic Studies in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The course in what is called Decongestive Physiotherapy will render Mader a certified practitioner in the massage treatment of lymphedema which is, briefly, redirecting the lymph fluid from the affected areas.
More than three decades ago Villa was treated for breast cancer, but she didn't develop lymphedema until about ten years ago, apparently from a nail fungus infection which she couldn't shake off.
Lymphedema commonly occurs shortly after cancer treatment or any surgery that requires removal of lymph nodes. Or, sometimes people are born with the condition.
Villa moved to the Virgin Islands in 1951 and did field work under Dr. John Moorehead, as a student in health education. This early training was followed by a long and expansive career in health care on St. Thomas. She is one of the founders of the American Lung Association here.
The cost of the two-week course at the Academy is $2,500. Add to that living and transportation expenses and it comes to $4,500. Of that total, Villa has raised all but $760, a considerable achievement considering that a short while back she had nothing. Anyone wishing to contribute can do so by addressing a donation to Lymphedema Project, The Women's League of St. Thomas, PO Box 1542, St. Thomas VI 00804-15542.
Villa said, "Any extra donation we receive can be used for patient support." She noted that she already has had inquiries from others about the massage treatment.
To learn more about the disease click here.

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May Amritt Villa has lymphedema. And she is doing something about it.
The little-known condition she suffers from is caused by an excessive buildup of lymph fluid, causing swelling primarily in the limbs, but also in other parts of the body.
After years of approaching local government health agencies in search of funding for treatment here, Villa decided to take matters into her own hands.
The agencies were sympathetic, but no funding was available, according to Villa.
"I finally decided if anything was to be done, I had to do it myself," she said. "I tried to think of what I, as just one person, could do -- and then I had a brainstorm. I decided to write to all my family and friends."
And so far, she has sent out about 100 letters. At 80 years old, Villa has the strength and determination of someone half her years.
"What should I do?" asks the letter, as it goes on to describe Villa's dilemma and her desire to help others with this cumbersome and painful affliction. Her solution to the problem was to find a St. Thomas massage therapist that she could send to the states for training in lymphedema treatment.
This, of course, would require funding, and so she asked for any contribution, however small, to be sent to the Lymphedema Project account at the Women's League of St. Thomas, which she used to channel the funds. The response to her letter was rapid and gratifying, from both family and friends she hadn't heard from in years.
The next step was to locate a local massage therapist willing to go to the states for the course of instruction. This she found in Colleen Mader, who is now undergoing training at the Academy of Lymphatic Studies in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The course in what is called Decongestive Physiotherapy will render Mader a certified practitioner in the massage treatment of lymphedema which is, briefly, redirecting the lymph fluid from the affected areas.
More than three decades ago Villa was treated for breast cancer, but she didn't develop lymphedema until about ten years ago, apparently from a nail fungus infection which she couldn't shake off.
Lymphedema commonly occurs shortly after cancer treatment or any surgery that requires removal of lymph nodes. Or, sometimes people are born with the condition.
Villa moved to the Virgin Islands in 1951 and did field work under Dr. John Moorehead, as a student in health education. This early training was followed by a long and expansive career in health care on St. Thomas. She is one of the founders of the American Lung Association here.
The cost of the two-week course at the Academy is $2,500. Add to that living and transportation expenses and it comes to $4,500. Of that total, Villa has raised all but $760, a considerable achievement considering that a short while back she had nothing. Anyone wishing to contribute can do so by addressing a donation to Lymphedema Project, The Women's League of St. Thomas, PO Box 1542, St. Thomas VI 00804-15542.
Villa said, "Any extra donation we receive can be used for patient support." She noted that she already has had inquiries from others about the massage treatment.
To learn more about the disease click here.