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Help from across the seas

J’can group helps St Mary teen get costly surgery

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Features editor — Sunday thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 10, 2013    

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SEVENTEEN-year-old Valrie Johnson is getting a new lease on life.

The St Mary teen, who was born with her left leg shorter than the right, recently underwent amputative surgery in the US and is now waiting to be fitted with a prosthesis.

This, thanks to the intervention of the Jamaica Awareness Association of California (JAAC), a group of expatriate Jamaicans who live in the western state.

The group, after meeting Johnson at the Port Maria Baptist Church in the parish on the 12th annual mission trip to their homeland in 2011, committed to assisting the girl and in 2012, secured surgery for her free of cost.

"Valrie's guardian approached JAAC after the service asking for help," the association told the Jamaica Observer in correspondence sent by e-mail.

"What was being suggested by the medical professionals in Jamaica was cost-prohibitive for Valrie's grandmother, who is her guardian (so) when JAAC volunteer paediatrician Dr Linda Tigner-Weekes was approached, she quickly began turning the wheels upon her return to Los Angeles.

"After much research and correspondence, (she) was able to secure surgery free of charge at Shriner's Children's Hospital in

Los Angeles."

Johnson, who is affectionately called Kim, had previously done five surgeries in Jamaica in an attempt to correct her disability, but they were all unsuccessful, forcing her to use crutches. Things have taken a new turn for her now, however.

She was admitted to Shriner's on December 11 and a Dr Colin Moseley successfully performed the surgery.

"It was a day she will not soon forget," the association said. "She has expressed heartfelt gratitude to her aunt, Sonia Carthy, who accompanied her from Jamaica, and to Linda Coy and Nigel Smith for accompanying her through that very difficult day and the days that followed."

Coy is playing host to Johnson and her aunt while in California. Other association members and volunteers have been contributing to their upkeep.

"Kim has had her follow-up visit with the surgeon and the results were excellent. She is healing nicely and eagerly awaits the appointment to be fitted with the prosthetic leg,"

said JAAC.

Johnson arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday, October 27, 2012. Among the places she visited prior to her surgery where the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- where she posed with Bob Marley's star -- Knotts Berry Farm and Universal City Walk.

She will return home in a few months with not just new physical abilities, but renewed enthusiasm and prospects as well.

JAAC is a non-profit, charitable organisation formed in July 1987and based in Los Angeles, California. It is dedicated to the advancement of the health and educational systems both in California and in Jamaica. Its motto is 'Improving Lives Today for a Better Tomorrow'.

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