June 27, 2024

Celebrating Caribbean American Heritage Month: Meet Maggie of Our Respiratory Therapy Team

Keeping her Caribbean American Heritage Close to Her Heart: Magalie Jean Baptiste

Nearly 40 years ago, Magalie Jean-Baptiste, RT, CRT, moved to American from Haiti's capital city of Port au Prince when she was a teenager, settling with her family in Brooklyn, New York. In 1987, the moved to Massachusetts, where she has since resided. 

This month, Magalie, known as “Maggie” by her co-workers at Morton Hospital in Taunton, Mass., celebrates Caribbean American Heritage Month, in celebration of her Haitian roots. Magalie has worked for approximately six years at Morton as a respiratory therapist, work she finds extremely rewarding.

“That’s my greatest accomplishment and greatest joy. Treating a patient that came to me with no hope and seeing this patient walking out the door,” she said. 

Initially, Magalie considered becoming a nurse, but there was a long waitlist to enter into a program, so she began learning about respiratory therapy care, and studied diligently for her exam to become certified.

“When I started in the field, my love for it grew extremely,” she said.

Magalie used to visit Haiti every year but was last able to travel there five years ago due to the ongoing strife in her homeland, which has been difficult to observe. The political situation even precluded her ability to travel to Haiti to attend her mother’s funeral when she died. She has relatives who remain in Haiti, and Magalie hopes for the day when she can travel back to Haiti to see them.

At home in Massachusetts, Magalie helps keep her Haitian culture thriving through cooking traditional meals, particularly on Sundays. These include Haitian griot – a pork dish - with fried plantains, and pickliz, a spicy cole slaw that includes shredded cabbage, radishes, carrots, white vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and habanera pepper. Another common Haitian dish she makes is white rice with black bean sauce.

It is also customary to spend time with family, which she loves doing, and is close with her four children, who are 34, 29, 28, and 23, and six grandchildren. “They are the apple of my eye,” Magalie said of her four grandsons and two granddaughters.

Magalie also enjoys observing and celebrating Haitian holidays. January 1 is “a very significant” day as it is Haiti’s Independence Day, declared in 1804 after France’s Napolean Bonaparte, was defeated during the first successful slave revolt that led to the creation of an independent nation. Through this victory, Haiti became the first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery. On this day, in a nod to her ancestors, Magalie makes squash soup because that is what was consumed in Haiti following its declaration of independence. “It stayed with me,” she said of the tradition and history. Other significant holidays include Easter Sunday and May 18, Haiti’s Flag Day.

As she observes these important traditions, each year, Magalie is grateful to her co-workers who offer to cover her respiratory therapy shifts on Jan. 1 so she can celebrate Haitian Independence Day. “One way or another, my co-workers are very good to me,” she said. “We work out schedules and they make it comfortable for me to be off.”