Teams of overseas medical professionals doing voluntary work for the measles epidemic in Samoa have included a group of doctors who stood out as siblings from one family.
Doctors Sarah, Sebastian, Miriam and Mosese are brothers and sisters in a family of 9, five of them doctors – 2 sisters and 3 brothers, all based in New Zealand.
One of the doctor brothers, Luke, missed out from volunteering in Samoa because he was needed for work commitment at home.
All are members of the Karalus family of Dr. Noel and Elisapeta Karalus of Hamilton, New Zealand and Tulaele, Samoa.
Three were born in Samoa, where the couple first raised their family while Dr. Noel was as a pediatric doctor at the Moto’otua Hospital.
He event went as far as to set up private practice before professional health registration requirements back in New Zealand, forced the family to uproot from Samoa.
The couple, who are now semi-retired have since been travelling back and forth between their Hamilton home in New Zealand and Tulaele where they have set up residence.
The children are all grown up and with spouses added, family talk around the dinner table are dominated by the medical profession.
One of the sisters who is a lawyer was overheard complaining about being left out of the conversation and was starting to wonder if she should take up medicine.
When the call for help went out of Samoa for medical assistance with the measles, it became an opportunity for many of the doctors and nurses with local ties, to respond.
Hands were raised from mainly New Zealand and Australia where they have already established careers.
For the Karalus family it was the kind of chance they have wanted and waited for to give back to their ancestral home roots.
When the Samoa Doctors Worldwide Volunteers Service (SDWVS). reached out to them, they grabbed at the chance.
“ The measles epidemic brought these kids back to their Samoan roots, to become engaged in a deep and meaningful way,” grateful family matriarch, Elisapeta Karalus readily approved.
Ms. Karalus is a holder of the Leaupepe title of her Fasito’o village family.
She found her way to New Zealand as a young promising student sent from Samoa to study nursing.
Her heart is always home in Samoa and when she was in New Zealand starting up her family, she was constantly and deeply obligated to return and give something back to her home country.
A major portion of her yearning for service is fulfilled by seeing her children respond to the cry of help from home in a time of need like the measles.
“They’ve always wanted to come to Samoa, they’ve been connected but never engaged.
“This was their opportunity, we never said a word to them, we have moved to Samoa.
“They organised themselves; they all had families in New Zealand but made arrangements to come.”
Leaupepe really appreciated the work of Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga of Otago University and Leota Dr. Lisi Petaia Leota a consultant psychiatrist in New Zealand.
The ladies are the ones behind the volunteer service (SDWVS).
The measles epidemic is not the first time the family had reached out a helping hand to the needs of home.
The family sibling who is a lawyer was involved in a fundraising drive to donate to the 2009 tsunami fund in Samoa.
Leaupepe knows that her children understands the talk about ‘fa’alavelave’ and the culture but have never really lived it.
But they did have first hand experience when they all travelled to Samoa in 1998 for the Leaupepe title bestowal on the family mother.
The professional leaning in the family to medicine is partly to do with the parents influence.
The couple agreed that the family conversation tended to revolve around discussion of health topics like medical cases but the choice of career was never forced on the children.
Dr. Noel recalled the time when one of his sons was initially interested in engineering before he changed his mind and wanted to go to med school.
““ I never told you to take up medicine….that’s your problem mate,” the good doctor recalled with the same pointing finger gesture at his son to emphasis his point.
Still there was no denying that the interest created at home in medicine captured the study interests of the siblings to take it up as a professional career.
People have complimented the good doctor at the rare success of his family but as person who carries a rosary like all devout Catholics, his faith makes him a believer in being blessed.
“People tell me that we must be proud of our kids, but I would say we are blessed but I will not take pride because that is a sin.
“A doctor’s job is to relieve the suffering in a patient, the healing is by the divine powers of God. I say that to all my patients as well.”
Leaupepe openly confessed that while she is highly elated that her children are able to contribute and put something back into the country, she did not want to detract from the local doctors, nurses and all the health workers at home.
She appreciated the blessings on her children and family but strongly insisted that the local staff in Samoa are more deserving of the attention and recognition for responding to the needs of the people.
The Karalus will start returning next week when their two weeks rotation period ends except for Dr. Sebastian who went back to New Zealand yesterday.