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'A miracle'

Mother of cancer-stricken child thankful as monetary help pours in to offset radiation treatment

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor -- special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 31, 2013    

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JULIET McNamee — mother of four-year-old Ajani Campbell -- believes it is nothing short of a miracle that her son will now be able to have the life-saving radiation after the Government and kind-hearted Jamaicans at home and abroad answered her calls for help to pay for the $1.7-million procedure.

The family's struggle to find the money for radiation to save the life of the young boy stricken by cancer was highlighted in an article in the Jamaica Observer on July 15.

McNamee had been sleeping on a chair for three months as she refused to leave her son's side while he was at the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew.

The cost for the treatment had not only depleted McNamee's entire savings, but severely hindered her ability to care for her 11-year-old daughter, who was struggling to deal with the absence of her mother from the family home in Christiana, Manchester.

But an overjoyed McNamee told the Observer last Friday that all was now set for the radiation to begin in another week, as soon as a special cap is built for Ajani to use during the treatment.

"This is a miracle because to think that we had to come up with all this money in six weeks and in six days everything was in place," said McNamee.

"For those who responded, I am saying thank you and God bless you, because I really needed the help," she added.

Some people, she said, had also taken the time to visit him at the hospital and this was particularly welcome as Ajani enjoyed the attention.

McNamee said she

was also pleasantly surprised that Minister

with responsibility for Information, Senator Sandrea Falconer -- who first informed her of Government's intention to help -- also took the time to telephone on more than one occasion to check on Ajani's welfare.

"She calls to check up on him to see if he is doing OK and she says she wants to be invited to his graduation when he graduates from high school," McNamee said.

Meanwhile, Falconer told the Observer that she decided to intervene after reading about Ajani's plight and the commitment of a mother to help her child.

Falconer said she immediately reached out to her colleague, Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, who made the necessary arrangements for the radiation to be paid for.

"I just hope that he will pull through and be able to beat this and grow up to be a productive member of the society," Falconer said.

McNamee also had special thanks to the Good Samaritan Jeannie Croskery who first brought Ajani's plight to the media and who has since been sourcing additional funds from friends to cover some of the other costs.

"Auntie Jean -- to me and Ajani -- is there at the hospital to see us every day or every other day even when she is obviously tired and I am so grateful," she said, adding that she also promised to bring Ajani a cake as he will be spending his birthday in the hospital on August 5.

Neyesha Watson, an Observer reader living in the Cayman Islands, said she was so touched by the family's plight that she immediately organised a bake sale at her job to raise $19,588.

"I told my co-workers at Books and Books and they went out and bought the items and made several baked products and took them to the office and sold them," she explained.

Meanwhile, Ajani has been released from the hospital and is now back home with his family as he awaits the special cap to be completed.

"It is so very good to be home and my daughter is excited because I will also be here for her birthday," McNamee said.

Ajani, too, is glad for the opportunity to play with other kids again.

"He is not even right here with me now because he is playing with his cousins," she said, explaining that he has not quite regained his strength and balance when he walks.

She explained further that arrangements are being made for Ajani to be admitted at the Bustamante Hospital for Children when he returns to Kingston to undergo the six weeks of radiation treatment.

However, McNamee said this is not yet confirmed as she is not willing to leave his side.

"I am told that I might not be able to stay there with him at the Children's Hospital and I don't want to leave him alone. So, if I can't stay there I may have to find somewhere else," she said.

McNamee said the doctors are recommending that Ajani remains in a hospital setting while undergoing radiation so as not to expose him to infections through the tube he is being fed through.

The challenge now, however, is the need to get Ajani from the hospital to the radiation facility at Ripon Road.Croskery said she is now soliciting help with transportation to get him to and from the facility five days a week.

"I will be taking him for the first day and I have some friends who are willing to drive him some of the time but we still need to get some other people to volunteer to help," she said.

At the end of the radiation sessions, McNamee said the family is optimistic that Ajani will return to having a normal life. Until then, Ajani is not quite yet out of the woods as McNamee said further tests are to be done to determine what is causing a sharp pain in his eye, which is still somewhat swollen.

The doctors are also watching to see if he will be able to swallow so that he can be fed without a tube.

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