IT might not seem like much to be happy about, but given the fact that his youngest child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth, Ludlow Martin takes pleasure in seeing his 15 year old daughter Kellie walk and talk and never fails to celebrate these achievements that people generally take for granted.
The father was separated from his daughter for 14 days after birth as doctors tried to assess the reasons behind the seizures she experienced while being born. But since that time, they have been inseparable. He has been there at most of her doctors' appointments over the years and has now assumed sole responsibility for her care, as her mother is temporarily overseas.
"My wife is abroad and so I do what she would normally do, like preparing her for school. She was taught to help herself and so for like the bathroom procedures, she can help herself. But then I would get up and pack her lunch kit and see to it that she is put together properly, her shoes are clean, her teeth brushed and her hair is groomed," he said.
After seeing that his daughter is ready for school, both of them make their usual trek to the Adonijah Group of Schools off Hagley Park Road.
"Both of us walk from home to the bus stop and we take the bus and we walk again. So while walking, we do a lot of chatting," said the father who lives in the Cross Roads area.
In addition to helping the father and daughter bond, the journey is also therapeutic for the youngster who had challenges walking when she was younger.
"This is good exercise and we deliberately do this to ensure that she is exercising. She had a bicycle and she has outgrown it and she needs another one, so we are trying to put the money together to get her one," he explained.
As a result of the cerebral palsy, her father explains that she performs three years below her age. Kellie has also been challenged to communicate verbally and this has made it difficult for her to fit into the regular school system, although she has been making gradual improvements.
"So we are able to communicate much better now than say two or three years ago," the father noted.
Martin recalled that the first years of his daughter's life were particularly challenging and as a result of her condition, she had to be closely monitored by himself and her mother.
"After about three months or so, I saw some irregularities in terms of her movement and at times when the attack was coming on, she would make some funny sounds and you would see like the hands and the legs in a certain position like she was having muscle contract. But what I would do when I normally see this, is to massage it, and when I went to the doctor I told them what I saw and they put her on medication for about a year or eighteen months, and after that I haven't seen it again," he said.
Given her progress over the years, Kellie has moved from having to visit a specialist once every month, to now seeing one once per year. She is now very active and spends a lot of time helping her father refinish antique furniture and other fixtures in his workshop. Given the fact that this is how Martin makes a living for his family, he is very happy to see his daughter catching on.
"Kellie likes to use her brush and paint and use the sandpaper and do her little thing. She will rub her sandpaper along the grain of the wood and I show her how to sand it," he said.
"If I am in the house and I'm doing anything like painting and whatever, she wants to be a part of it. So she will grab her paintbrush and she will mess up the floor, but at least she puts the paint on the wall, in her style."
Martin admitted that taking care of Kellie on his own took some getting used to, the first time his wife went away for a long trip. She is now taking her second such long distance trip and along with the help of his other children and a family friend, Martin has been holding the fort.
"Cooking was nothing new to me, because I would be the chef for the weekend, especially on a Sunday. I don't go anywhere on a Sunday, I stay home and prepare breakfast and help with the ironing and that sort of thing," he explained.
Martin has six other children apart from Kellie and he said he was just as involved in their upbringing. All of them are now adults and are very protective of their youngest sister. As the father puts it, "They cover her like when a hive of bees cover their queen".
Although they all live their own lives, Martin said he still checks up on them to see how they are doing and was pleasantly surprised when they arranged a birthday party for him without his knowledge in June this year.
"With all of my kids, I am always there, even at this point I am there. My kids are my pride, so I am always there for school, PTA meetings and whatever is happening. I must be there, I must know what is happening with my kids when they are in school and out of school," he said.
Martin has high hopes for Kellie although he knows that her progress is slower than the average person her age.
"She has come a long, long way. I just feel good about where she is at now, because of where she is coming from. I see her everyday and I do love her development so far. I don't think she will be like a lawyer or doctor or whatever, but she has two hands and they work and she has a brain that works too, so it is my wish and hope that I live long enough to see the hands doing something productive," he said.
Martin reads to his daughter Kellie. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)