Double amputee Sylvester Cooper has been using his wheelchair to get around, but he is not happy that he has to consistently be asking for help.
The 68-year-old senior citizen, who lives alone at Sevens Road in May Pen, Clarendon, says he is in dire need of a pair of prosthetic legs which would enable him to work and feed himself, instead of begging on the street or having to depend on strangers for hand-outs.
He is a diabetic and a series of unfortunate events had caused him to lose both legs.
"A bump came up on the right leg in 2017 and I burst it and then it went bad and when I went to the hospital they had to cut it off; then a dog bit me on the left leg in 2022 and I lost that one, too. They tried very hard to save that one but it couldn't be saved," he said.
Both legs have been amputated above the knee.
Cooper says he is father to two children, but past events led to a breakdown in the relationship and they have since been estranged.
"I have a shop but I am not working, so I need some stock for it so I can hustle to feed myself," he said, adding that he used to work as a chef at a baking company in the Corporate Area.
"I also do a little backyard gardening with cash crops like tomatoes and okra for home purposes, but right now, to tell you the truth, it is rough. Life rough wid mi enuh because mi try a little thing at mi yard gate but mi no have the right stock fi send di business a road. I need juice, liquor, cigarettes and other stock you would find in a corner shop, to make the hustling easier."
He was upbeat during his interview with the Jamaica Observer while he explained that he has started the process to acquire the prostheses, but is hindered due to a lack of funds.
"I went to the Mona Rehab and they did the estimate and when they questioned me they realised I can't afford it, or I would have to hit the street to beg it out, so they gave me a discount to give me for $1,140,000 for the pair. So now I'm seeking assistance to pay for them so I can go and work to provide for myself."
He said he was referred to another location in Mandeville which is much closer to home, as the fare at that time to go to Kingston was $15,000 to charter a taxi.
"When I go to Mandeville they wrap the legs with bandage to shape it so it can hold into the prosthetic. I even did the measurement already, but for about six months I don't go to Mandeville because I don't have any money and I really need the foot to go work.
Christine Liao, a sixth-form student at Glenmuir High School, said she learnt of Cooper's plight through a friend, and being a member of the James and Friend's Education Programme, decided to assist through the foundation.
"Its an unfortunate thing that happened to him and so it gives me pleasure to help him with his groceries. He's a sweet, honest and hard-working man who didn't give up despite his situation and I won't lie, his actions have inspired me. Others who are suffering would have given up as such pain not only affects you physically but mentally," she lamented.
"He kept pushing and adapting and because of that, he taught me that even if life seems to be against you, never give up because things will always work out in the end. I was elated and felt a sense of ecstasy in both being able to help him as well as seeing ... the look on his face when he saw the help he got. I think people will support him in his future endeavours. I believe he is truly grateful and I think we can all learn a valuable lesson of resilience from him," said Liao.
Cooper, meanwhile, continues his regular check-ups at the clinic in Denbigh where he is constantly monitored and his illness kept under control.
Sylvester Cooper can be contacted at 876-238-0853 for persons willing to assist with stocking his shop or purchasing the prostheses.
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