Palm Beach Post: Nurse honors late niece with international gift of medical supplies

BOCA RATON — What started as a way to deal with her niece’s death launched an international service project for nurse Mayda Loveland Tress and hospitals around South Florida.

On Friday, she organized the packaging and shipping of scores of medical supplies from West Boca Medical Center to Zacapa, Guatemala, for the medically underserved communities there. What sparked the project, she said, was an award she received in April.

“I told God, ‘The award is really nice, but I don’t want a paperweight,’ ” she said Friday. “I want the award to be a catalyst for something good.”

Tress works as a telemetry nurse for Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, one who specializes in monitoring a patient’s vital signs. She was inducted into Tenet Healthcare’s Heroes Hall of Fame in April for her service work in Guatemala with World Help, a humanitarian organization that sends medical missions to developing countries. After the awards ceremony, she said, the chief financial officer of West Boca Medical Center, Brook Thomas, approached her with an offer.

“He said, ‘I’ve got a warehouse filled with medical equipment. We’re not going to use it anymore. Do you want it?’ ”

And in three months, Tress was able to partner with World Help and organize transport for the supplies. She, along with World Help volunteers, filled two 40-foot trailers with hospital beds, baby warmers, IV pumps and anesthesiology machines.

Tress first got involved with World Help in 2010, when her niece, Kelly, died from breast cancer. Kelly was a nurse at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. Her death devastated her family, and it looked for a means to cope with it. Tress said a friend of her brother knew the president of Virginia-based World Help and put him in contact with the organization. Her brother reviewed the projects and settled on building a home for special needs children in Guatemala.

“(My brother said) that’s the one Kelly would want me to do,” Tress said. “So my family raised the funds.”

The home was named Kelly’s House.

Since then, Tress has been on three medical mission trips to Guatemala and is leaving for her fourth next week. She’ll continue to work with Thomas to contact every Tenet hospital in South Florida (there are 10) for their extra medical supplies and equipment to send to developing countries. Tress eventually wants to move on to other private hospitals in the area.

The medical supplies shipped today will be in use by next week, she said: “They’re already on their way to Port Everglades, and they’ll be on a boat to Guatemala on Monday.”

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