Sister Pyatt

Lolowai Hospital former star staff Sister Pyatt and Dr. Mackereth Photo: An Lindsay

Sister (Betty) Pyatt’s name is synonymous with Lolowai Hospital because like Dr. (Bruce) Mackereth, her name is engraved with the Anglican hospital that was able to save patients’ lives when there seemed to be no hope.

In 1963, Marsden Philip Vuvu was about 14 years old and his body was riddled with sores that affected both his legs and hands.

His father tried all forms of medicine available along with custom medicine to cure his sores without success.

Through Sister Pyatt and Dr. Mackereth’s advice, the sore-riddled young boy was carried to Lolowai hospital on an improvised stretcher made from copra bags from his village at Lolovinue.

The two medical experts did not have the x-ray machine and sent the young boy on an Anglican Mission vessel called MV Patterson to Luganville Northern District Hospital for an x-ray to be done on his body.

“I returned to Lolowai on the same ship and Dr. Mackereth spoke to my father. He spoke with words similar to these, ‘There is no guaranty that I will be able to save your son. The sores on his body are very serious. I wil operate on his legs. But before I do, I want you as his father, to know that there is no gauranty that I will save his life. If you agree for me to try, I want to be assured by you now that if he dies, please do not blame me because I am doing my best to save him’.

“My father replied, ‘Doctor, I understand. Let me assure you too that I have tried every custom leaf medicine that people know and yet, I have not been able to cure his sores. If my son dies, Doctor you have my word that I won’t blame you’.

Dr. Mackereth operated on his patient’s legs and replaced the bones with artificial bones. He successfully cured all the sores too.

Today Marsden, 70, is wheelchair bound and is alive and well. He has these words to say to Dr. Mackereth and (late) Sister Pyatt, “I thank God for the two medical friends and their staff for saving my life.

“I am forever grateful to Dr. Mackereth for saving my life and Sister Pyatt who insisted on putting me through my education at Vureas.

“Dr. Mackereth walked for about three hours to my village to supervise my trip to the hospital because there were no vehicles yet in 1963 so there was no big road yet.

Sister Pyatt had to be a linguist as I remember that she was also fluent in Mota language too. She was adamant I had to be sent to school and that was how I ended up studying at Vureas”.

Their former patient says to prove Sister Pyatt’s contributions to the medical profession in the then New Hebrides, about 1963, he was there when she was awarded with what he suspected to be a British Empire Medal (MBE) or Officer of the British Empire (OBE) Medal, for her contributions to the medical field in the Northern Islands.

The following is the confirmation as published in The New Zealand Herald from October 23 to 25, 2017: “Pyatt, Elizabeth Catherine (Betty Pyatt of Melanesia).

Passed away on 21 October 2017 in Auckland aged 97. Much loved by her parents Albert ad Violet (both deceased), her brothers Ralph and Geoff, her deceased siblings Allan, John, Marjory and Dorothy, and by all their extended families.

A service for Betty will be held at the Chapel of Christ The King, 43 Target Street, Point Chevalier on Wednesday 25 October at 2.00 pm”.

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