Heather Little-White: her indomitable spirit will live on
THE passing of Dr Heather Little-White this Tuesday closes a sad, but at the same time hopeful, chapter in one woman's journey of faith, fortitude and frustration.
Few women have had such travails and remained so resolved to not descend into despair and still believe that somewhere on the horizon there was still hope for a sordid nation. We might yet find our salvation in the struggles of people like this steely rural daughter of Somerton, St James.
It is worth recalling that Dr Little-White, the storied nutritionist and columnist, while confined to a wheelchair, suffered three robberies in just over 10 years.
On a Friday afternoon in April 2010, she was shopping at Jo Jo's Farm Market at the intersection of Waterloo Road and South Avenue in St Andrew, when she suddenly felt an arm around her neck. Her bag was snatched from her grasp by a robber who disappeared on his motorcycle. Little-White was sure she was trailed from the bank.
Two years before that, she had suffered a break-in at her home from which valuables were stolen. But these two events, frightening as they were, pale in comparison to the first event on a cruel Tuesday night, July 6, 1999.
Full of life and brimming with intellectual and physical energy, how could she have known when she left home that fateful July morning, that before the day was out, her life would be changed forever by a gunman's bullet? And in, of all places, affluent Norbrook, upper St Andrew!
The strong legs that walked the hills of rural St James and kept pace with the Reggae Boyz on their historic journey to World Cup glory in France 1998 would now be confined to a wheelchair for life.
Dr Little-White was dropping off a Daily Word at the home of friends that night and as she approached the home, two men came up on either side of the car. The windows were still up and from lip-reading, she gathered that the one on the driver's side was saying: "Police, come out!" He was also brandishing a gun.
She accelerated into her friend's driveway, desperately honking the horn for attention. Suddenly she felt the sting of the gunman's bullet which ripped through her shoulder and lodged in her spine.
She was later rushed to the University Hospital of the West Indies where, three days later, a doctor brought the grim pronouncement: she would never walk again.
Five days after the shooting, she was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for further treatment. There they confirmed the earlier prognosis that she would not walk again. After six weeks of intensive therapy, Dr Little-White left the hospital in Miami and came home to start life as a paraplegic. Out of that tragic event, an indomitable spirit of faith and courage had soared, triumphant and forgiving.
"Part of my life now is being an advocate for the disabled community, which is significant, especially when you look at the rate of shootings and accidents that we are experiencing as a country," she said at the time.
She afterwards lent her considerable talent as an advisor to the Paraplegic Outreach Development Foundation, a member of the Combined Disabilities Association and a member of the Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities, for which she earned the national honour — the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) — in 2001. After her third robbery, instead of giving up, she vowed to start a campaign to unite Jamaicans against crime.
Rest in peace, Heather Edecca Little-White.