JOSHUA McFarlane at age eight was earlier this year diagnosed with a brain tumour so severe that medical professionals gave him four months to live.
Six months have since passed and he is still hanging on.
But the "fighter" needs over $4 million to undergo a life-saving radiation surgery at the Miami Neuroscience Centre in the United States, and his guardians are asking the public for assistance in securing the funds.
It is not clear when the abnormal lesion on Joshua's brain stem started to develop, but his mother, Jacinth Renford, said that things took a turn for the worse in March.
According to Renford, one evening the second grader of Boundbrook Primary School in Portland, arrived home and complained of a headache. The mother said that she never took her son's complaint too seriously, and gave him some painkillers before she told him to rest.
Things seemed alright the next morning and Joshua was sent to school, Renford stated. But again he returned home complaining of a "splitting headache", and around 3:00 that afternoon, Jacinth received a terrifying phone call from her mother asking her to come home immediately.
"When I went home he was crying and screaming that his head and eyes were hurting," Renford said.
She then rushed her son to the Port Antonio Hospital where doctors administered several tests on him.
Those tests didn't reveal much, she said, and the professionals referred her to the neurosurgical clinic at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston. From there she was told to take Joshua for a Computerised Tomography (CT) Scan at the Winchester Medical Centre, also in Kingston.
That CT scan was done three days later at a cost of $17,000. It preceded a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) examination, which the doctors also recommended be done. The MRI cost an additional $43,000, said Renford, explaining that the figure does not include transportation costs to and from Kingston where she, Joshua, and his four sisters live.
At first glance, Joshua looks like a normal child, but a closer inspection reveals the severe impact of his illness. In addition to throbbing headaches, Joshua appears constantly woozy. Some of his facial features have been altered, and the veins in his face have become abnormally pronounced above the skin. He has trouble balancing when he stands and walks, and he also has problems urinating, said his mother.
The most drastic change, however, has to do with his personality, said Joshua's aunt, Sherine Renford.
"If you knew Joshua before his illness and you see him now, you will see that this is definitely not my Joshua," said Sherine. "Before he was helpful and he always wanted to go to church," she added.
"Now he is very impatient, he is very erratic, very moody. He has started to act up. He is using profanity and he is shouting. Even his eating habits have changed," she said, her face a canvas of disappointment.
Before Joshua became sick, his mother worked as an office attendant at a popular money transfer outlet. One day, however, her employer asked her to resign because she was spending too much time away from work tending to him.
"Sometimes I had to take him to work and the boss was having a problem with that," said the mother, adding that she is a single parent. Even the time spent with her girls has been greatly affected her son's illness, she said.
According to the mother, it will cost approximately US$18,000 for her son to receive the radiation treatment abroad. Post- surgery medication and treatment will cost an additional US$21,000.
While the radiation surgery can be done in Jamaica, the follow-up treatments are only offered overseas, she said.
Renford said that she has already secured a United States visa, with the help of the Miami Neuroscience Centre, for her son to travel to that country.
Last Thursday, young Joshua sported a rare but warm smile while eating lunch at the Jamaica Observer's Beechwood Avenue offices in St Andrew.
Politely, and under a soft breath, he responded: "I'm feeling fine" to a greeting from this reporter. Nowadays he is bent on enlisting in the police force or in the army. He is a lover of sports and gets excited every time Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt takes to the track.
On Thursday, his mother and aunt made a passionate plea for assistance.
"Joshua is a sweet child; he is very humble, caring and gifted. Every individual who has a heart of love and care I am asking you to reach out and help Joshua," urged Sherine Renford. "I know that he can make it and I would greatly thank anybody who can help him," she added.
"People at the hospital gave him only four months to live. Right now he has lived passed that and it is because he is a fighter. He has come this far. I ask Jamaicans to give my son another fighting chance," stated Jacinth Renford.
Persons who would like to contribute to Joshua's surgery are asked to make donations at NCB account number: 844-080-670.