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Complimentary tickets deny Children's Hospital of $15m

— Shaggy laments

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor -- publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 01, 2014    

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COMPLIMENTARY tickets have eaten as much as $15 million from the funds donated to the Bustamante Hospital for Children from the Shaggy and Friends show.

The stunning revelation was made by the man behind the charity effort — Shaggy — as he explained why he has moved to limit the number of complimentary tickets issued for the show.

While acknowledging that event promoters cannot escape issuing comp tickets, Shaggy (real name Orville Burrell) appealed to Jamaicans to remember that the show is staged to raise funds for the hospital.

"We stress to hold the comp tickets down, which is very hard because Jamaica is all about comp; every party every man want a free ticket, ah so it go, is the culture. But this is a charity. It's about raising money," Shaggy said during this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters in Kingston.

This year's staging of the Shaggy and Friends Show is scheduled for January 4 on the lawns of Jamaica House in Kingston and will feature Tessanne Chin as the headline act.

The reggae/dancehall artiste, in an obvious effort to demonstrate the hospital's need for the funds, related a number of experiences he had there which pushed him to donate money for nine years before going public.

He said that when he first started visiting the hospital they had no blood warmer. The staff, he said, would place the frozen blood into a pot with water and warm it until the blood got to the temperature to be used for operations.

"That was how bad it was," he said. "We have, since Shaggy and Friends, got blood warmers.

"I have many stories of things that they do that are unconventional to save lives... These people are miracle workers."

He said the major aim of the show is to provide the hospital with the best facilities.

"The Observer has always been on board with us and we thank you," he said, adding that some of his biggest partners in the effort are the artistes, who all perform for free.

"I'm not doing this to have a good time. Normally at Shaggy and Friends I don't enjoy it at all, I'm running around doing way too many things. I just realised the other day everybody is talking about how great the meal is at the show; I've never had a meal there, ever, because I'm running around doing many things," he said.

"So this is not a glamour thing for me, if it nah mek a difference me nah involve inna it, I don't have time for that," the deejay said.

"I don't need anyone to look at me and say, 'oh you're doing this'; I was doing it for nine years by myself without publicity; I went public because I wanted help, not because I want to look good... If it's not making a difference, it doesn't make any sense," he added.

He recalled a sad experience he had one Christmas when he went to the hospital with fellow artiste Sean Paul to hand out gifts to the children.

"There was a little girl covered up by a sheet and her mother was there holding and shaking her head," Shaggy said. "I looked at the mother and asked her what is wrong with her, Mommy?"

The mother replied that the doctors said they did not know. He said when he asked her how come, the mother repeated her answer and lifted the sheet.

"The child was about three times the size of what her head was," Shaggy explained, adding that he went to Dr Lambert Innis, head of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at the hospital, took him to the child and asked him what was wrong with her.

"This is a medical marvel," Dr Innis replied. "Nobody knows what is wrong with her. We're finding more and more children coming in with adult-type sicknesses."

Innis then told him that they would be sending the child to the University Hospital of the West Indies, with a couple of his doctors, to see if they could diagnose her problem.

"I said all right. At that point ah feel helpless again, so ah comfort the mother," Shaggy explained.

He said that a few weeks later he checked to find out what had happened to the child, only to be told that she died an hour before his enquiry.

"Ah say to miself, 'Jesus!'"

At that point, he got word to the child's mother, telling her that he would pay for the funeral.

"I think is about two or three funeral I pay for out of that hospital, which is never a nice thing," he said. "So when you have these experiences, this becomes personal."

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