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Lind: Mayville State grad's effort provides ambulance for island

The Caribbean island of Saint Lucia is a long way from Mayville, N.D. But the distance has been bridged by the humanitarian efforts of many Americans and, in part, by a Mile of Quarters.

Mayville ambulance arrives in Saint Lucia
A used ambulance paid for by donations to the Mile of Quarters campaign in Mayville, N.D., arrives at a hospital in Saint Lucia. Special to The Forum

The Caribbean island of Saint Lucia is a long way from Mayville, N.D. But the distance has been bridged by the humanitarian efforts of many Americans and, in part, by a Mile of Quarters.

Because of this, a hospital in a Saint Lucia city now has a badly needed ambulance - one that came from Mayville.

Ailing ambulance

Dr. John Lyng, the son of Merwin and Myrna Lyng of Mayville and a graduate of Mayville State University and the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, once worked for the West Traill Ambulance Service in Mayville. He's certified in emergency medicine and serves in the emergency room of Fairview Ridges Hospital, Burnsville, Minn.

John was completing a residency in Syracuse, N.Y., in 2008 when he and other physicians volunteered to work at St. Jude Hospital in Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia. He returned as a volunteer in 2009.


John was appalled by the hospital's ambulance; it was about shot. When a fire at the hospital forced the evacuation of patients to another hospital over mountainous roads, it barely was able to handle the task.

The American doctors who had worked in Saint Lucia began raising money to help the hospital. But John had his own focus: a replacement ambulance.

And joy of joys, the West Traill Ambulance Service had a used ambulance available. It was one John had ridden in many times when he worked for the service.

Raising the funds

The ambulance service said it would accept $5,000 for it. Not bad, considering a new one costs around $150,000 and up.

But it had to be shipped. That meant big bucks. John figured the whole project would cost around $25,000.

So he came up with a fund-raising idea: the Mile of Quarters.

He determined that a foot of quarters laid end-to-end would equal $3. Do the math, and it works out that a mile of quarters would generate $15,840. John felt that if people donated pocket change or skipped buying a few cups of coffee or pop for a few days, the money could be raised.


Mayville-Portland-area people and many others came through, big time.

The Mayville State Student Senate held fundraising projects. So did other groups.

The drive also got big lifts from a Rotary club in East Bremerton, Wash., which gave $7,500 because a club member was a doctor who'd been a Saint Lucia volunteer; volunteers from Syracuse raised about $6,000.

And the goal was reached.

Contributed supplies

In February, John and his sister Karen Asmundson drove the ambulance to pick up items donated by several organizations: Mayville's Union Hospital; Grand Forks' Project Ishim, which collects usable medical items for distribution to Third World countries; Fairview Hospital; Global Health Ministries, Minneapolis; and 3M, Minneapolis, where Karen works and which makes health and wound-care products.

Funds for supplies also came from people at the State University of New York, Syracuse.

All told, John says the donated supplies were worth more than $65,000.


Overjoyed paramedic

On Feb. 22, John and another driver drove the equipment-loaded ambulance to Florida.

On March 4, it arrived by ship in Saint Lucia.

According to the man who drove it from the port to Vieux Fort, the rig "drove just as if it had been on the Saint Lucian roads forever," and the man who will be the prime paramedic aboard it "is beside himself with joy."

This is the rig that came from far-away Mayville over a road paved partially with a Mile of Quarters and lined by people with heart.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or

e-mail blind@forumcomm.com

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