Best Christmas in a decade
Quadriplegic thankful after receiving motorised wheelchair from businessman with passion for helping poor and disabledFriday, December 25, 2020
BY GARFIELD ROBINSON
Thirty-one-year-old quadriplegic Shushanna Thomas was overjoyed on Thursday.
“I'm feeling elated, happy, grateful, appreciated. Mi jus' feel good overall, and I appreciate the thought and the initiative and effort to make my Christmas a very merry, merry, merry, happy Christmas. It's the best Christmas I've had in over a decade,” Thomas, who lost the use of all her limbs 11 years ago due to a spinal cord injury, gushed after being presented with a motorised wheelchair by Garfield Virgin, principal of Virgin International Trading on Chisholm Avenue in St Andrew.
Thomas, who lives in Waterhouse, one of the capital city's tough inner-city communities, about a mile away from Chisholm Avenue, told the Jamaica Observer that she had been asking for a motorised wheelchair for a while.
Her sister, she said, sent the request to Television Jamaica, which aired it on the station's Christmas Wish List programme.
Virgin, a man given to philanthropy because he grew up in poverty, saw the programme and was moved.
“It's always a privilege to help the needy,” Virgin told the Observer. “I was brought up extremely poor and because of that I know what it is to get a gift, so I try to pass on that feeling as much as possible to anybody I can.”
But Virgin's crusade-like zeal to help people in need is also driven by the fact that he almost lost his son, Brandon, at birth.
“A lot of persons don't know, but it's your past that sometimes determines your future, and everybody has a story,” he said.
“You see my son outside, he was born dead. Doctors said he would not live, he would not talk, he would be a total vegetable. Right now he has a shunt that they said he would live with for life. It's a miracle that he's alive and walking and talking and driving.
“When he was born he had no heartbeat for about seven minutes. When he was resuscitated he was blue. He was on [a] life support machine for months. So I'm passionate about that, because every time I look at someone who is paralysed I realise that could be my son, based on the prognosis of the doctors. I get emotional because I remember what happened to my son on February 23, 2003,” he explained.
Virgin recalled how he had to use a funnel to feed his son through a slit section of his stomach “every two or three hours”, because the doctors told him that the condition the baby was in did not allow for his brain to indicate hunger.
“My son was tough as a board, and for every time the doctors give him over, God step in. So that is my story, why I do what I do. So nothing I have really, and earn, I consider it for me. I consider it for us. And God gives to me what He gives through me. So anything that He gives to me, I think He gives because He knows that it will pass through me to go to others. So that is my passion,” Virgin said.
“I like to see the joy on people's faces,” he added, and told the Observer that each month he and his team are in downtown Kingston distributing food to homeless Jamaicans.
“Right through the year, every month we give them food, but tomorrow [Christmas Day] we will give them gifts, food, clothing, everything,” he said.
Thomas, meanwhile, thanked Virgin for his generosity, especially to disabled people.
“I appreciate the fact that he thinks of us, as a humanitarian, and his advocacy,” she said.
She expressed a wish to be employed in the next few weeks or months, saying that she would also appreciate a laptop as she could work from home because she has Caribbean Examinations Council and HEART/NSTA Trust certificates.
“So if you know anybody who is looking for a person to file or to work as a receptionist, or someone who just knows how to use their initiative, you can give them a shout for me,” Thomas appealed.
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