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VIDEO: St Elizabeth teen in need of eye surgery

Family seeks assistance to cover $1.3-m bill

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

JUNCTION, St Elizabeth — June 18, 2019 is a day Julian Ebanks will never forget. It was the day her daughter, Akalia Newell, was accidentally struck in the eye by a schoolmate while at her primary school.

“She was hit in the eye by a next student who was using a slingshot and a marble. Now it is affecting her and she is seeing the doctor in Kingston. [She] is now required to do an eye surgery on her retina in the right eye where she got the hit, it is damaged,” Ebanks told the Jamaica Observer during an interview at her home in Potsdam, St Elizabeth, on Monday.

Ebanks, a mother of four, is now struggling to come up with a hefty sum.

She showed the Observer an invoice for $1.3 million, dated July 6, from Ophthalmic Suites for the procedure referred to as pars plana vitrectomy surgery.

Akalia's right eye, according to her examination record, has a stage-two macular hole, which has caused her to have blurred vision.

“The parents of the child [who accidentally struck Akalia] don't have it [money],” said Ebanks.

“She is not seeing clearly from the eye and whenever she goes out into the sun, it hurts her. It doesn't hurt her like everyday, but constantly being out in the sun affects her,” she added.

Ebanks, who is currently unemployed as she is caring for her five-month-old son, said Akalia's father and relatives have been assisting.

“My family has been supportive. Everybody has dropped in and have been doing what they can afford to do. Her father is also doing his part by helping out with expenses and taking her to the doctor… [but] $1.3 million is really a lot, because I am not working at the moment. I honestly don't have it. I am asking for some assistance for my daughter's sight,” said Ebanks.

“The doctor has said that her sight wouldn't [necessarily] be 100 per cent, but they are saying that it would be like 85 per cent… Seeing 85 per cent is better than seeing none at all,” she added.

When asked about additional expenses, Ebanks said her daughter has had to continuously use eye drops.

“She is using two eye drops at the moment — one for the pressure in the eye and one for the liquid, because the retina is damaged the fluid continues to [affect] the eye,” Ebanks explained.

Despite her eye condition, Akalia remains resolute in her academic pursuit as the 13-year-old, who is a first-form student at B B Coke High School, has won the heart of the school's Guidance Counselling Department.

“There are two initiatives as it relates to fund-raising [presently] by the Guidance Counselling Department… At school we have a box in which we ask people to make donations of whatever they can afford. Akalia's mother will be having a cookout on August 20, with tickets available at a cost of $800,” guidance counsellor at B B Coke High, Sandra Edwards, told the Observer.

“Akalia is a very promising student. She has great potential, and we would want to see her have her full sight and be able to realise her academic dreams. She was placed ninth out of 42 students in her last examinations,” Edwards added.

Ebanks still tries to keep a smile on her face, despite her daughter's need for eye surgery.

“I have had to take her to several doctors and then travel from St Elizabeth to Kingston, especially with COVID-19, I don't take her on public transportation. I have my five-month-old baby to come home to as well, so I have to rent a car [for Akalia's appointments],” Ebanks stressed.

Ebanks is asking anyone who can assist her in covering the cost of Akalia's eye surgery to send funds to National Commercial Bank account number 884277574, which is in her daughter's name, Akalia Newell, at the Junction branch in St Elizabeth. She can be contacted at 876-839-3088.