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Let’s sacrifice for Justin
Justin Francis was seven years old when he was stabbed in the eye. His mother, Alana, will never forget it. It was Thursday, March 24, 2011, she recalls. Her son was at school and the teacher was absent; the class was working on a project about habitats while the teacher was out. Justin seems to have accidentally thrown down animal figures from someone else’s habitat and the other child took offence.
After hiding from the other boy over lunchtime, Justin went back to class and was ambushed. “Next thing Justin felt was the pencil in his eye,” Alana says. “It was a stab, in and out.”
The story continues with a heartbreaking series of delays and missteps; instead of rushing the boy to the hospital immediately, the school waited for his aunt to collect him. She walked him to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, from where he was referred to Mt Hope Children’s Hospital.
The family had to take him there on their own, through rush-hour traffic. By the time he was registered and seen, Alana says, it was late in the evening. His emergency surgery didn’t begin until around 9 pm. He had two more surgeries subsequent to that one. “They did as much as they could have done,” Alana says. But as much as they could have done has left Justin with continuing eye problems. The injury destroyed the lens of his eye. The Francis family has elected to continue his treatment in the US, at Kings County Hospital Centre in Brooklyn, New York. Even after having had the Mt Hope surgeries, he may still suffer severe consequences and so he is being continually monitored. He has been to the Brooklyn hospital three times in the past two years and regularly has to get new contact lenses and spectacles to compensate for the damage done to his eye.
This, as one could well imagine, is not cheap. The lenses alone cost US$700 each, and every trip to the States costs the family around TT$8,000. Alana only mentions en passant that she and her husband had been out of work for some time, not wishing to dwell on that misfortune. They’re working again, but the bulk of money for Justin’s medical care comes from what Alana and her friends raise from holding barbecues once a month. I learned about Justin and his family’s trials at a Lenten retreat at St Anthony’s RC Church in Petit Valley. Fr Clyde Harvey was the preacher and he called on the parishioners to donate money to Justin’s medical fund. Within two days, the church members had ponied up enough to significantly help with one trip to Kings County Hospital.
“It was generous,” Alana says. “We are very grateful for what they have done. We were able to purchase the tickets” for the next trip to the US. As for the future, she says, “I am going to continue to do what I have to do for my son.” She says that she often reminds Justin, “God don’t give you more than you can bear.” She asks that the St Anthony’s parishioners continue to pray for her family and for Justin’s recovery. In the meanwhile, the ongoing challenge of finding funding for the trips to the US continues. To support Justin Francis in seeking care for his eye, you can contact Fr Harvey at Holy Rosary RC Church, corner of Park and Henry Streets, Port-of-Spain, or phone the church at 623-4020. You may also donate directly to Justin and Alana Francis at Republic Bank, a/c #040138440901.
It is Lent, a season of sacrifice and reflection in the Christian world. I can think of few better things for which we can sacrifice than the health of a child. Please make a contribution, however small; as Jamaicans say, “One-one coco does full basket”—or as Trinis say, every penny counts. On a related note, Cherise Couri, the teenager of whom I wrote a few weeks ago, has been getting a very encouraging response to her fundraiser to assist with her liver surgery. The fund-raising event, originally scheduled for March 8 at 51 Degrees, has attracted the support of a number of high-profile artistes and business people such as Tony Chow Lin On and Machel Montano, to name only a couple of them. The much larger fundraiser is now scheduled to take place on March 16, at O2, Chaguaramas. Tickets are now $200. For more information, e-mail [email protected].
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