ESTHER (Jackson) PETRIE, BSN, RN
ESTHER (Jackson) PETRIE, BSN, RN
Esther has always been driven to help others. Her compassion and dedication in her charitable endeavors have earned her the distinction of “Angel of Mercy” in more than 76 countries.
Esther collects out-of-date and expired medical supplies that are usually discarded, or sent to be incinerated, and instead sends them to Third World countries and clinics. She has sent more than 230,000 pounds of medical supplies to 116 countries on six continents around the world as of 2023.
Some of the areas that and those suffering after a natural disaster who have been impacted by Esther and her dedication include Native American reservations, communities in the Appalachian Mountains, the Gulf Coast and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, communities affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunami, survivors of countless earthquakes and a leper colony. Animal organizations that have benefited from her endeavors include Himalayan Rescue, The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize, and the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. Supplies are delivered on a regular basis to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, a no-charge, no-patient-turned-away-facility where surgical repairs are performed for women suffering from traumatic childbirth situations.
Esther’s work is entirely word-of-mouth, solely driven by volunteers and donated supplies. No money ever exchanges hands. She began her journey knowing that our wastefulness serves a purpose, and we can do so much more for those communities less fortunate than the ones we live in.
Esther was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1945 and moved to the United States in the 1960’s. After residing in Arizona, she realized she wanted snow, mountain and trees and applied for a nursing position with Providence Hospital in Anchorage. She has been here ever since.
Esther started this endeavor in 1989 when she traveled with the first UAA Medical Biological Expedition to Russia to observe local healthcare, as well as the differences and similarities to medical care available in Alaska at that time.
What the delegates found were clinics and hospitals with empty shelves with outdated and outmoded equipment. Esther recognized the amount of discarded and unused medical equipment and supplies the United States generates and started collecting boxes of supplies, under the guidance of Sister Donna from Providence Hospital. (For example, if we open a surgical pack and remove one thing, the rest of the sterile equipment is thrown away.) These supplies were sent to Russia via Aeroflot Airlines until Aeroflot stopped service in the late 1990’s.
After that, Esther branched out. Using San Francisco as a hub, she started looking for people who were traveling, asking “couriers” – friends, family, healthcare professionals, coworkers and acquaintances who were traveling to bring an extra suitcase full of supplies to either a contact or clinic, while also coordinating with airlines that has unused cargo space and that are willing to deliver packages to desperate towns. She also started utilizing donated suitcases and donated damaged baggage from assorted airline to package her supplies.
Esther’s mission over the past 33 years and reputation in her work has gained the attention of and donations from medical professionals and organizations across the State of Alaska, from hospitals, pharmacies and doctors’ offices to home health services, Department of Veterans Affairs and local fire and ambulatory departments.
Supplies arrive on her doorstep and get stacked, sometimes ceiling high in her condominium. Her contribution of supplies include but are not limited to: Incubators, ventilators, wheelchairs, crutches, canes, surgical instruments, dental instruments, pulse oximeters, defibrillators, monitors, OR rollers, BP cuffs, ostomy supplies, nebulizers, walkers, assorted artificial limbs, ultrasonic cleaners, centrifuges, microscopes, assorted splints, gloves, syringes, needles, medications, formula, insulin, suction machines, EKG machines, slit lamps for eye exams, laryngoscopes and blades, diapers, glucose monitors and supplies, CPR mannequins, just to name a few. With the assistance of other agencies, Esther has even sent X-ray machines abroad.
On a yearly basis, with the assistance of approximately 75 travelers, Esther sends approximately 3,000 pounds of supplies across the globe, from Philippines to Peru; Mongolia to Mexico; Gambia to Guatemala; Ethiopia to Ecuador; Myanmar to Belize.
In addition to her main mission of collecting and distributing supplies to provide medical and veterinary care around the world, Esther has traveled and provided hands-on assistance to those in need as well.
From 2008 through 2012, she traveled to Vietnam with the American Academy of Pediatrics to help educate lower economic clinics in patient care initiatives and local quality improvements, which has proven to be a great resource for those communities. While there, she taught CPR to nurses in Hanoi, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City, along with hand washing, infection control and other fundamental sanitary basics for healthcare workers.
On a local level, Esther supports Access Alaska with medical supplies, helping seniors and those experiencing disabilities to live independently in the community of their choice. Other nonprofit organizations that benefit from Esther’s initiatives include the Alaska SeaLife Center, Bird Treatment & Learning Center, Alaska Raptor Center, Mat-Su Animal Shelter, Food Bank of Alaska, McKinnell House, Claire House and the Gospel Rescue Mission.