Help for Andre Coleman

Help for Andre Coleman

• 12-y-o forced to walk on his hands gets new wheelchair • Donor pledges further assistance

BY SUZETTE BONAS Observer writer

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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LOOKING past the trials of the typical seventh grader — making friends and learning new work — Andre Coleman has one less issue to worry about.

The 12-year-old boy, who walks on his hands due to a spinal condition, can now enjoy improved mobility thanks to the donation of a wheelchair from Texan Dr Dudley McFarquhar.

The Jamaican-born structural engineer and his physician friend from Dallas, Dr Carlton Clarke, read Andre's story in the Jamaica Observer two months ago and were committed to helping the young boy's situation. After several calls and pointed questions for Andre's mother, McFarquhar and his group, Dallas West Indies United, determined that a wheelchair would be the best gift for Andre.

"In the Dallas West Indies United, we are very avid advocates of helping back home. We understand the big picture," McFarquhar told the Observer.

The presentation took place at Mona High in St Andrew, where Andre is a student, with the full support of Principal Keven Jones.

Andre's mother, Hermine Coleman thanked Dr McFarquhar and his colleagues for their generosity.

"It will make a great difference," she said. "The (increased) width of the wheelchair (would) mean he's more comfortable."

Previously, Andre used a smaller wheelchair that rubbed against his legs. His new standard wheelchair can be collapsed for easy storage and provides additional room for his schoolbag.

Meanwhile, as a member of the Kingston branch of Optimist International, advocating for and reaching out to children in need was second nature for Dr McFarquhar.

"Sometimes you never know what input can stimulate these kids to strive," he said, "because they need to know somebody cares. And if it's a little thing to make life easier for him with mobility, then that's what we want to do."

But Dr McFarquhar's aspirations for Andre go beyond the wheelchair. He has proposed getting prosthesis for the young boy and his mother is already on board. The two-fold process requires liaising with Andre's physician locally before applying to Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, which treats children with orthopaedic conditions.

McFarquhar said even if they do not get through with Scottish Rite, they will not give up that easily.

"This is the first step. If they're not (on board) then we're going to the next two (or) three hospitals. But we're not stopping," he said.

For McFarquhar, the donation means more than just improving mobility for Andre. He hopes that his kindness and that others will inspire the young boy to keep going.

"He's not the first student that has a disability and I'm sure the students are fine with him here in the school," he said. "He needs to understand that he fits into the fabric of society and that we do care. God blessed us with children who have special abilities because they can still contribute. It's up to us to encourage them to try to maximise their potential. It's not 'if'. We must reach out."

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