WAKEFIELD, Trelawny — Tears flowed freely down the cheeks of grief-stricken teachers and students at Wakefield Primary and Infant School on Wednesday morning as they mourned the sudden passing of eight-year-old grade three student Alexia Drummond, who fell ill at the school after the lunch break on Tuesday.
Little Alexia died late Tuesday afternoon at Cornwall Regional Hospital, shortly after she was transferred from Falmouth Public General Hospital.
On Wednesday, when the Jamaica Observer visited the school, Alexia’s parents, Patricia and Omar Drummond, who were on the compound, were too shaken to speak to reporters. They were ushered into a classroom where they were comforted by members of the school community and visiting guidance counsellors.
A bereaved Sheryl Chisholm, Alexia’s class teacher, recounted that shortly after resumption of classes following the lunch break she was walking through the class while reviewing a lesson when she spotted Alexia slumped on the floor, unresponsive.
“While in the class I was going over a topic which I did before lunch. I realised that some of the students did not fully grasp the lesson [so] before I decided to move on I decided ‘Let me review what I did,’ so I went to the chalkboard — everyone was seated — and started reviewing.
“I don’t know if it’s God who sent me to walk to her side first, so when I reached up I saw her on the ground. I said, ‘Alexia, why are you lying on the ground?’ I did not hear her respond so I said, ‘Get up, Alexia,’ [and] she did not move so I bent over where I saw her on the ground. Vomit was on the ground.
“So I grabbed her quickly and shouted for the other teacher and he came, and we lifted her up and we went to the staff room. Other teachers came and we rushed [her] to the Wakefield Medical Centre with a vice-principal and a caregiver, then to Falmouth Public General Hospital, [and] from Falmouth to Cornwall Regional Hospital. The guidance counsellor went with them,” recounted Chisholm.
She told the Observer that it was the first in her 25 years in the classroom she had ever experienced such tragedy.
Chisholm said she could not sleep throughout Tuesday night and that the incident has left her young charges traumatised.
“The students are crying, I cried. It is very tough. It”s the first I am seeing something like this. It’s hard, tough. They [students] are sad, they are crying. It’s very tough,” said Chisholm.
Speaking during devotion on Wednesday, a devastated Michael James, the school’s principal, sought to comfort the students and the rest of the school population.
“We have lost one of our princesses, one of our [prospective] doctors,” he said, his voice cracking, face etched in grief.
After devotion James broke down during an interview with reporters in his office.
He revealed that it was déjà vu for the school which is still reeling from the July death of Makeal Senior, who was a classmate of Alexia.
“Makeal, who would have been a third-grade student, died during the summer holidays,” the distraught principal explained.
But while heartbroken by the deaths of Alexia and Makeal, James is encouraged that a grade five student who fell ill last week has managed to overcome her illness.
“Last Thursday one child from grade five, she was coming down the staircase, walking casually, didn’t feel well, and she fainted. I took her straight to the Falmouth hospital at the time, after contacting the parents and taking relatives with me. During the journey she passed out twice. While the caregiver was trying to assist her, she passed out again. She is back at school now. I am giving God thanks for that,” said James.
Alexia was described as a quiet, diligent, and disciplined student.
“She was a very quiet, hard-working student. Never received a [report] of her being involved in any fight,” James said.
Her class teacher echoed that view.
“She’s very quiet, kind. She doesn’t give trouble [and] she didn’t talk a lot. She did not come to me and say, ‘Miss, I am not feeling well’; she lined up and she came inside like everybody else. There was no sign of illness on Alexia, none. It was so shocking,” Chisholm bemoaned.
Pastor Andre Sinclair of Reid’s Friendship District of Seventh-day Adventists, prayed for and sought to console the school population during devotion.
Seven guidance counsellors from neighbouring schools, the school”s parent-teacher association president and other stakeholders also visited the school to offer comfort.
Family and other stakeholders will now await the result of a post-mortem to determine the cause of Alexia’s death.