MONTEGO BAY, St James — A lesser woman would have probably buckled under the pressue long ago. However after 19 years of caring for her blind, bed-ridden teenage son, Dawn Shaw has learned a thing or two about survival.
Abandoned by the child’s father who blamed her for his condition, and unable to take up several job opportunities as a result, the 55-year-old master artisan told the Observer West that it the only thing standing between herself and insanity is God.
“It must be the grace of God why I have managed to go through with this,” she said.
‘This’ refers to her urgent need for food and personal effects for her son, who was born Leslie Samuels at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) on October 19,1990.
According to Shaw, a day before she gave birth to her son, she was diagnosed with high blood pressure and other complications by doctors at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
She subsequently gave birth by cesarean section.
She said she did not see her baby until just over a week after delivery.
” When I saw the child he was in a terrible condition. I found him with a needle in his head, and tubes in his nostrils,” she recalled. She said the baby was discharged two weeks later, and she was subsequently told that the baby has some “brain problems.”
She added that after several subsequent visits to the hospital out patient clinic, she realised that the child was retarded.
” I went back to the hospital several times and I realised that despite getting medication, the child was not improving. So I had to stop going there because it was costing me about $1,000 to charter a taxi to take us there,” she said.
According to a doctor at the CRH, Samuels, who suffers from cerebral palsy (Congenital Brain Dysfunction) has been a patient at that medical institution since birth. He has permanent brain damage and will need medication for the rest of his life.
But financial constraints have prevented Samuels, who has six other children– none of whom are able to assist–, from securing the necessary medical attention for him in recent months.
Taking a job would mean sourcing someone else to look after him. This Shaw has not been able to do, as several attempts to get the child to be admitted to the Copse Children Home in Hanover and the Mona Rehab Centre in Kingston have proven futile.
“They do not have the space,” she said, adding that several promises by political representatives and the Ministry of Social Security for assistance are yet to materialise.
In the meantime, Shaw has maintained her dignity, refusing to entertain unscrupulous suggestions to take her son to hospital under pretense that he needs medical attention, and leave him there.
” Believe me Sir, mi didn’t have the heart to do it. Mi have him from him a little baby and mi get so used to him. To mi that would be wickedness……. I just couldn’t do it.”
But she’s getting tired.
Her smile, though warm and genuine, is awash with tears as she describes the daily routine of caring for Samuels who weighs about eighty pounds.
” I have to be doing every thing for him since him born. A mi cut him hair, clean him teeth, bathe him, feed him…It’s tough. Right now I don’t even have pampers for him. I don’t even have anything for him to eat, but mi just have to hold on until I see someone come along who I can ask for some help…mi just can’t manage on mi own anymore,” she told the Observer West, voice cracking.
Samuel’s father, who in addition to abandoning her refused to provide financial support for him, is no longer in the picture.
He died 13 years ago.