BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter email@example.com
JULIET Codling's home for the past year and three months has been a bed at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
At the root of her tribulation is the lack of over $1 million needed to do surgery, so that the bed-ridden woman may be able to walk again and live a normal life.
Codling, 53, was going to work in the Dunrobin area of St Andrew one morning when a man wearing a hard boot accidentally stepped on her right foot. That was the beginning of a downward trend in the life of the woman who suffers from sickle cell disease.
"Him step on mi foot and give me a scrape and it broke out into a sore because of the sickle cell, so I had to leave the work," Codling told the Jamaica Observer from her bedside last Thursday, pointing to the section of her right foot that bears a large scar.
"I was going on good in that work, because I never had any TV and I saved and buy a little TV. I'm telling you, boy, sometimes some things can happen in life," she said. "But because of the sore I had to leave the work," she said.
That was followed by a fractured hip which forced her into the UHWI on June 30 last year.
"I developed osteoarthritis in both hips, so one of the time I had to be walking with crutches until they said I had to do surgery," Codling told the Sunday Observer.
"So I did surgery in 1997 and 1998. Everything was fine. But after 10 years you have to do it over. So because it wasn't done over, the bone got brittle so that is why I got a fracture too. So when they go in now they have to put in bone and so," she explained.
A letter from an orthopaedic resident at UHWI states that Codling is "known to have sickle cell disease and is in need of a post-bilateral total hip replacement".
The letter also states that Codling has a left periprosthetic fracture.
But while surgery is required to repair the damage, allow her to walk again, and finally able to leave her hospital bed, Codling has fallen way short of the $1 million mark for the surgery.
A proforma invoice from Manuchant Sport Medicine and Orthopaedic Centre confirmed that Codling is in need of a dynamic compression plate valued at $5,600; Total hip replacement - UOC - Revision with femoral stem, acetabular, XPE liner and head, valued at $720,000; and an allograph proximal femur with head, valued at $490,000 -- a total of $1,215,600 before the surgery can be performed.
"I paid $300,000 already, so now I need almost a million dollars. And I want tell you, I never hold a million dollars in all my life enuh!" she said with a wistful smile.
Codling said that the amount paid was made possible through the Ministry of Health over a year ago.
She said that she has been in the hospital so long that even her teeth have begun to decay and desperately need attention, as she is unable to visit a dentist.
"Oh my God, I'm dying to go home. Dying!" she said.
To pass the time, Codling does a lot of reading and listens to gospel music on her cellular phone.
"I only have to buy the prosthesis and pay the hospital bill," she said. "What they are going to put in is what is costing the money, because the doctors say they wouldn't charge me to do the operation.
"I really feel a way to be in here for so long, you miss Christmas, birthday -- you miss everything, but what mi going to do? I can't do anything. Because I am in here waiting and the doctors are waiting to help me too to see if I can get some assistance, especially a doctor name Dr Kenneth Vaughan. He is a very nice doctor. He comes to see me every other day," Codling said.
She said that when she first learnt that she needed the surgery, the devices required cost $300,000. "But when mi come back for them to do what they have to do, they say it need $400,000 more. But the doctors said something else was needed. So when I went to check it out it was $1,215,600. So from that I have been begging and seeking help from all over, but up to now, nothing. I wrote to banks, and they say they couldn't do anything for me right now, and I wrote some other places. Some responded that they can't do anything and some didn't respond," she explained, adding that she has sent out 25 letters of request.
She said that as a result of being a sickler, she feels a lot of pain, which has added to her distress.
"Sometimes you go into a sickle cell crisis pain and it takes you even one week to come out of it. But the doctor has to keep on giving you drip and injection and you have to drink a lot of water so that your blood will circulate," she said. "Many times the blood cells clog up and cause pain in the joints. So that is why you have to drink a lot of water for that not to happen. But right now what I really need is the rest of the million dollars to pay the hospital so I can go back to work and pay the hospital their money," she said.
And while she worries about where and when she will get the money to do her surgery, she is faced with other bills.
She has been receiving hospital bills, with the last sent to her home in Mountain view in March amounting to over $700,000.
However, she said she is not too worried about the bill as the hospital will work out a payment plan.
"As long as you will pay they don't really have a problem. You have a plan and you pay according to how you can manage," she stated.
But she said that she is expecting the next bill to be even higher.
While she may not be able to do strenuous labour, Codling said that after the operation, she will sell items in the market or from home as she was accustomed to doing before the fracture.
"If it wasn't for the hip, I could work. But if I get the hip replacement, even though I can't too hackle myself, I would do anything. I can't manage domestic work, but after the operation I will still be able to sell, so that is why I am not too worried about the hospital bill," she said.
Despite not being able to walk, Codling said the doctors are looking into sending her home ... something that she is looking forward to.
"That's the thing now. They need to talk to a family member so they can advise them how to move me and things like that. And I would have to use a wheelchair."
Luckily, she already has a wheelchair, courtesy of an old friend who worked at the sickle cell unit as a haematologist.
"She made arrangements for me to get one and I got it already, but I sent it home for them to set it up for me," Codling said. "It was a brand new wheelchair."
While she has relatives, they are not able to assist her as they would like.
"I live with my adopted brother now, and my daughter's husband. They help me out. I won't lie. Now that I'm in here I see them more than my own blood family, but it's just that they can't afford to help with the hip replacement. I have a sister in Canada. If she never lost her house and her work, I would get that million dollars long time. She has to be paying rent and she is not even working right now. But she still tries to send a little money when she can to make up, buy medication and so on. But if she had it I would be all right," Codling said.
She said that although she is in the hospital, she is given prescribed medication, which she has to fill. This is costly at times, but varies depending on what is prescribed.
Codling explained that both her parents had the sickle cell trait without their knowledge, until a doctor examined them after her mother gave birth. Two of her siblings also have sickle cell disease.
One of Codling's two daughters, a 37-year-old living in England, has full-blown sickle cell disease and is unable to walk as a result.
Her other daughter, who has the sickle cell trait, is presently unemployed, though she finds ways of helping to care for her mother.
Now, Codling lies in the hospital bed night and day unable to walk around, experiencing pain and is constantly fed pethidine or given pain patches to ease her distress as she desperately awaits help so that she can have the surgery performed and move on with her life.