At 30, Dixon's life in Bequia, a small island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was pretty good. He was married with two children eking out a modest living in the tourist industry. Then the accident happened. He fell from his roof while replacing tiles and damaged his spine. He never imagined that he would be in this position.
Dixon spent three weeks at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in St. Vincent. The doctors predicted that he would never walk again without an operation. With no possible way of paying US$140,000 US$140,000 for the surgery, his world had changed forever. Despite the odds, he slowly regained limited movement in his legs after the nurses encouraged him to start therapy.
When I met Dixon on Princess Margaret Beach in Bequia he was walking again, hobbling slowly along the beach with his cane sinking into the sand with each step. He was selling plantain chips made locally in St. Vincent to tourists. This became his daily routine and his main source of income.
Each day he woke at 6 a.m. in prayer, walked along the narrow roads from the small community of La Pompe to Princess Margaret Beach, then made his way along the beach and up the trail to the Port Elizabeth harbour. By sundown, he completed his daily trek of 6 kilometres, sat in the shade to recover his strength then ventured home by mini-bus or sometimes by walking.
I wondered how Dixon kept up his spirits, despite having to face such a difficult road ahead. His wife was now estranged. Unable to cope with his physical limitations, she moved back to the main island with the children. He lost the company of most of his close friends, but gained a closer connection to his faith, and the support of sympathetic tourists.
How many Dixons are unable to reach their full potential? Weak economies of small island developing states are often touted as the reason universal heath care is not provided to citizens. But some of these states have the foresight to protect their citizens like Dixon against health risks. After all, does it not make sense for countries to arrange their national budgets so that Dixon's talents are as valued as able-bodied men?