It is with a very heavy heart that I write this post. NDI has experienced perhaps its toughest week ever as one of our brigade students drowned. Michelle Eustache was an ND student from Bastyr University who was extremely active in the ND and global health community. I had the incredible fortune to not only get to know Michelle during this week but to also work with her in the clinic and see first hand what an amazing spirit and presence she was. She was an extremely patient individual with all those she encountered and had a great sense of humour. She took it in stride when one patient fell in love with her beautiful hair and kept coming up to her to admire her hair and touch it. As well there were many instances in the clinic where she would catch an inflection in my voice as we were putting together treatment plans and would soon have the entire group laughing about it. That was the other aspect I will always remember and hold dear about Michelle was her smile and her laugh. In the words one of my colleagues, Angela Dinarte, “Ella tiene una carcajada contagiosa” – she has a contagious laugh. Not only was her laugh contagious but so was her spirit and her passion for naturopathic medicine and giving back to the global health community. As I have been going through photos of the week and as we have been sitting at the vigils and services being held in Los Angeles I keep being reminded of her smile and her laugh.
The entire community has come together to remember her and to work to ensure that this sort of tragedy can be avoided in the future. Since Michelle’s passing on Friday there has been a nightly vigil and service where community members come to the rancho where the global health courses are to sit and pray before an altar prepared in Michelle’s memory. The alter was set up by women from the Pueblo Hotel who were hosting brigade members the first afternoon and is filled with draperies, candles, flowers and pictures of Michelle on which are written notes about her. In the words of Dra Tabatha Parker – she was a bright light to all the lives she touched. I hope that others can see that her light has not gone out but has been passed on to ignite a flame in others to work with the same passion and spirit that Michelle showed us. We on the NDI team are doing our best to make sure we are there to help with and work with the family as best we can. Please keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.