The hue and cry raised this week over lead leaching into water courses from the Guanapo landfill is a textbook example of too little, too late.
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A miracle of faith
At 21, Sacha Roopnarine is healthy and happy. Life could not be better. But it was a rough journey for the girl from La Romaine who battled with her health issues for quite a while. “My life was nothing short of misery,” she recalls. At 13, Roopnarine fell ill with stomach problems. At times she would experience excruciating pain in the lower abdomen that occurred three or four times a week, lasting up to three hours each time. After a series of doctor visits and costly tests, she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. A condition in which a woman’s levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance, causing a variety of health problems.
At the time of her diagnosis, Roopnarine did not fully understand what having polycystic ovary syndrome meant. It was only after doing her own research that she understood. What was confusing to Roopnarine was that nowhere in her research did she read about excruciating pains being associated with the condition. And even her doctor confirmed that the pains were not as a result of the disease. He could not tell her though, the cause of these pains. To treat her condition the doctor placed Roopnarine on several birth control pills to regulate her period—irregular periods are a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome. However, the medication had a negative effect on Roopnarine. She began experiencing more pain, and even depression. She fainted quite often.
She also began gaining weight which she said made her feel ugly and suicidal. Then came the seizures that would occur almost daily. During these bouts of fits Roopnarine would scream, kick, hit and yell to the top of her voice, “I don’t want to live!” This left many believing she was demon possessed, including students and teachers at her Fyzabad Anglican Secondary School. Roopnarine explained that she was unaware of what was happening to her during the seizures. When she informed her doctor, he told her the seizures might be a side effect of the medication. He also said, her’s was a rare case.
Living in isolation
Life became very difficult for Roopnarine. She often felt she was a burden to her parents and at school she became an outcast. “I lost all my friends. Students teased me; they would call me names like possessed girl, mad girl, obeah girl,” said Roopnarine. This led the then 15-year-old to have low self-esteem. She also tried to starve herself so she would not gain any more weight.
“I thought since I was already being teased about my condition, to be fat too would be just detrimental.” Eventually, Roopnarine’s continued seizures led to her dismissal from school. “The principal said I was disrupting the class and causing concern amongst other parents. This was very difficult for Roopnarine as education meant everything to her. She would be home-schooled for a year by her sister who was a teacher.
“After a year passed. I decided I wanted to return to school. I began attending Kevin’s College in San Fernando, a private school my sister taught at. But the change of scenery was no different, having also now to deal with an overprotective sister who literally did not allow me to have a normal life at school. Then came the murmurs and the negative criticisms from the students once I had a seizure.” Despite the challenges, Roopnarine excelled at her studies, being the top academic student in her class. But this achievement was also met with negativism. She was now called the “sicky nerd.”
“This really hurt my feelings, because I started to wonder exactly where would I fit in. I mean if everywhere I go I am experiencing dislike from others, then maybe the fault was in me.”
At one point, Roopnarine said she almost even succumbed to peer pressure just to fit in. “There were some students who used to drink and smoke and do other things they should not have been doing and they would often try to convince me I should do the same, but something always kept me from doing it. And I believe it was my promise to my family that I will always make them proud.”
A divine intervention
Roopnarine believes that in life, we will meet people who are meant to stay in our lives for good, and others only for a while. She is grateful for Kevin Rajpartee, a young man she believes is a godsend in her life. “I met Kevin when we were both preparing for CXC. We started talking and I confided in him about my condition and he invited me to a full gospel church, which he and his family attended. He said maybe I needed the Lord to help me,” said Roopnarine.
But coming from a strict Hindu background, Roopnarine knew little and believed little about Christianity. “I hated everything about Christianity. I did not believe in this Jesus they talked about, but Kevin was adamant I should go to church. I was also advised by some of my past teachers that I should also attend a Christian church. I eventually decided I would, but I had to hide this from my parents,” explained Roopnarine. In any case, she was not allowed to go out on her own, so Rajpartee along with his pastor and a few members began intercessory prayer on Roopnarine’s behalf. She says within that year of intercessory prayer the polycystic ovary syndrome, miraculously disappeared. She began having regular periods and experienced very few seizures. With the great news and her new-found belief in Christ and Christianity, Roopnarine decided she was going to open up to her parents on the possibility of her converting to Christianity.
“I was really nervous about telling them because I thought that it would have been met with great opposition, but contrary to my belief, they were very nonchalant about it. That is when I began believing that it was truly meant to be,” said Roopnarine. She began attending church regularly and continued to see vast changes in her life. She no longer had thoughts of suicide or depression, and seizures were now down to zero. Life was finally good for the teenager—until she accepted a teaching job at a Hindu school and began forgetting about Jesus and what He had done for her.
“I was just so happy with this new life of mine, I forgot who blessed me with it,” said Roopnarine. She stopped praying and going to church and in no time the seizures were back. Eventually she was fired from the school because of the seizures and her depression kicked back in. Most of her days were now spent laying in bed crying. In hindsight, Roopnarine realised her distance from Jesus was actually creating a problem in her life. She decided to pull herself together and go back to church, but more importantly mend her relationship with Christ.
“I knew Jesus was the way for me. When I look back on my life, I realised all those painful years happened for a reason. Today I have a friend whom I can trust and who loves me and genuinely cares for me and when I am in trouble I can seek His face and know that He would rescue me; and that friend is Jesus,” declared Roopnarine She added: “Choosing Christianity was hard for me in the beginning because there were many who felt I was a traitor to turn my back on Hindusim, but I know the truth and in the end I know that Jesus is the only one that is worthy of everything and I will continue to worship him alone.”
Roopnarine is even more grateful to God for sending her Rajpartee, the person who led her to Jesus. The two have found love in each other and today they remain an item. She has also written and published a book titled A Gentle Wind which is a compilation of short stories and poems, written during her rough years. She is also studying psychology at UWI, St Augustine. And is making her directorial debut in her upcoming movie, The Truth. A short film based on her life story. To anyone experiencing any form of adversity, she leaves this piece of advice: “Whatever you go through, it is for a reason. You may not see it now, but God knows why and knows your end. Don’t let what you go through be an excuse for you not to make it.”