Things looking up, as Jackson Memorial embraces Jamaari, mom
Five-year-old Jamaari Smith was diagnosed with a rare skin disease called pyoderma gangrenosum in June 2022 — a condition that causes large, painful sores to develop on the skin, most often the legs. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Her biggest aim has always been to get her son treated overseas, so he can have a better quality of life.

Now, that's a reality.

Tameka Rowe-Smith and her son, five-year-old Jamaari Smith, are in Miami, Florida, at Jackson Memorial — the largest hospital in the United States with over 1,500 beds — after the boy's case was accepted.

"Mr Arlington Myers, the good Samaritan, saw our story in the Observer and decided to help us. He contacted me and we scheduled a time to meet at his hometown's library in Junction, St Elizabeth, where there was reliable Internet connection, computers and scanning devices. We met on the set date, we discussed the preparations necessary and we sent off an application to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, for a consultation visit," Rowe-Smith told the Jamaica Observer in a follow-up interview.

The Sunday Observer first highlighted Jamaari's story on March 12, 2023, and digitally with an eight-minute attendant feature video. He was diagnosed with a rare skin disease called pyoderma gangrenosum in June 2022 — a condition that causes large, painful sores to develop on the skin, most often the legs.

"The doctors are now trying to figure out how to effectively control this disease in him. I returned to work and on April 24, 2023, I received a call to inform me that Jackson Memorial Hospital had accepted Jamaari's case and had given the date of May 12, 2023 for his appointment. We were so elated and overjoyed when we got the news. We instantly began the process of making the application for the visas for me and Jamaari," Rowe-Smith, secretary to the CEO and hospital administrator at Savanna-la-Mar Hospital for the last eight years, continued.

While they waited on a response from the hospital in Miami, Jamaari was readmitted to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) on March 20, 2023 and spent approximately three weeks there, due to the occurrence of yet another flare-up.

Prior to that, he was hospitalised for six months between Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital in Westmoreland, Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James, and UHWI in St Andrew. He was also placed on morphine for pain management. During that time, Jamaari also received four blood transfusions and spent five days incubated and on life support.

Doctors discovered that along with the return of the ulcers, he also had a low oxygen saturation level. Upon doing a chest CT scan, the doctors realised that half of one of his lung was not functioning at full capacity. They had put him on oxygen therapy and incorporated breathing exercises to encourage the lungs to function properly.

Over $1.4 million was raised for young Jamaari in a week, following the Sunday Observer's emotional story about his journey.

"I had a total of $29,000 in my Scotia account on Sunday evening and about 11:00 pm after I finished reading the article in the Sunday Observer, I decided to check the account. I was dumbstruck by the amount I saw," Rowe-Smith said at the time.

Rowe-Smith said she was encouraged by Myers to utilise Global Travel Services in Junction, St Elizabeth. And with the appointment letter from Jackson Memorial, an appointment date was set up for May 4, 2023 at the US Embassy in Kingston.

Within the space of a week, the visas were granted for both Jamaari and his mother, and plane tickets were purchased for an afternoon flight out of Kingston on Thursday, May 11, 2023.

It was their first time travelling outside the country, and Rowe-Smith recalled Jamaari being a source of comfort for her during the flight.

"Mommy, you can't be afraid of it. You can't be scared. You have to be brave; it's not going to do you anything," the boy said.

Last Thursday, Rowe said they met with the doctors on the scheduled day, and they were asked to make follow-up visits since. At the moment, she added, there is no definite plan regarding the way forward, but things should fall in place by Saturday.

"We are unsure of how long it will last, but the doctors are thinking that we may have to do scheduled visits to the hospital over time. Originally, Mr Myers was trying to get us a room in a charity organisation that provides accommodation for individuals in our situation, but unfortunately, they were full to capacity and I do not have any relatives in this States. Therefore, we have to be renting Airbnbs, which is super expensive," she told the Sunday Observer.

"Medically, the treatment they are considering would require a lot of tests to be done and the cost for each test is anywhere between US$300 and $1,200," Rowe continued.

But even with the current struggles, Rowe said there is still a lot to be grateful for.

"Thankfully, there has not been a flare since we got here, so there are no pustules and therefore, no ulcers on his skin. He is doing okay, thanks to the Almighty God. I give him his meds in a timely manner and I watch him closely and monitor his blood pressure as well as his oxygen saturation," she said.

Unsparingly, and marvelling at the many hands that have come together to assist her son, Rowe-Smith added: "I would like to firstly thank the Almighty God, my Jehovah Jireh for speaking to the heart of Mr Myers when he saw our story. Thanks to Mr Myers for doing all he could for us. To the Jamaica Observer and specifically, Romardo Lyons and his team who answered the call and visited my home to get our story, a big thank you to you all. To Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital, thanks for giving me the time off from work yet again so I could make the trip, and especially to my co-workers Tami-Ann Gordon and Koni Smith who are covering my duties until I return.

"Thanks to the prayer warriors who are praying out there for us. To my family, friends, well-wishers and, of course, the donors. You have been a tower of strength. I am, and will forever be grateful to know that you have stretched forth your hand and has helped where you did not have to. I will continue to pray that everyone will receive a blessing from God for all they have done for us."

BY ROMARDO LYONS Staff reporter

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