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Ministers moved by Marissa’s story

Published: 
Thursday, September 15, 2016

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said yesterday his ministry stands ready and willing to do all it can to assist 600-pound Marissa Nelson who is suffering from lymphoedema.

Deyalsingh’s email response came after he read yesterday’s T&T Guardian front page article, headlined Helping Hands, where non-governmental organisations, local and abroad, as well as the chief of staff at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) offered to assist Nelson, 32, who has been confined to her bed for the past four years.

Yesterday, in response to a text message, Social Development and Family Services Minister Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn also gave a commitment to assist. “We may be able to assist with her (Nelson) medication if it is not available via CDAP,” Crichlow-Cockburn said.

Apart from financial assistance, Crichlow-Cockburn said Nelson “can be provided with an aide/caregiver and counselling.” Told of the intervention by two ministers yesterday, Nelson said she would embrace all the help she could get.

“I really need it. I am really and truly touched. The responses have been overwhelming. My health is deteriorating. I am happy that these two ministers have promised to do whatever they can. I hope they would follow up and do all that is necessary by keeping to their word. I hope their word is their bond.”

Nelson said she did not want a repeat of the past, where ministers pledged to help and nothing materialised.

“For years I have been crying out for medical attention and other assistance. I just don’t want to be forgotten again,” she added.

On Tuesday, Nelson’s story was highlighted in the newspaper, where she called on the Government to intervene and provide specialist medical care, urgent medication and a 24-hour caregiver.

Although Nelson receives a $1,800 monthly disability grant and is a recipient of a $410 monthly food card, she said the money was not enough to buy her pampers, bedliners, antiseptic soaps, 25 packs of baby wipes, bandages and gauze, which total about $5,000 monthly.

Nelson lives alone and depends on the generosity of her neighbours and her 68-year-old mother, Sylvia, who is an amputee for assistance to do the simplest of chores. Within hours of going public with her plight, people from as far as the United States offered to help Nelson, of Johnson Road, Valencia.

Among those were DEHIX, an international charitable body, EWMSC, CEO of Pillars of Harmony and members of the public. Touched by the outpouring of support, Nelson thanked the T&T Guardian on Tuesday for publishing her story.

The story was also aired on sister station CNC3 and reached over 295,000 readers on Facebook and was shared 1,169 times by 4.30 pm.

Having read the two articles, Deyalsingh said he had asked the health care system to respond to Nelson’s condition and both Dr Andy Bhagwandass, Chief of Staff at the EWMSC and the Head of the Emergency Department at the Arima District Hospital, Dr Helmer Hilwig, have responded, detailing how they can help.

“We stand ready and willing to do all we can to assist this patient.” Deyalsingh said.

He said he was “proud of the response and my best wishes go out to Ms Marissa Nelson, as only she knows what she is going through. I am also proud of the response of the country at large. We are a wonderful compassionate people.”

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