Glenn Tucker | Pay Tajay!
"It's cruel, it's inhumane. It's the worst thing a government can ever do to a child whose future has been ruined." Yvonne Beckford, grandmother of Tajay Rowe, the boy who suffered brain damage because of negligence of staff at Victoria Jubilee Hospital 15 years ago.
I think it was the same year this tragedy occurred that one night I awoke just after midnight to sounds at my gate. Guards from a security company were challenging a young man who could not give any good explanation why he was hanging around my gate and "peeping inside".
The young man was unarmed. He claimed that his girlfriend was about to have baby. And "people" told him that he could come to my house and "borrow" taxi fare to take her to hospital. There are no taxis in Stony Hill after midnight.
THEY WERE HUNGRY
So we jumped into my car and headed off to pick her up. The appearance of both parents prompted me to ask a question and they confirmed my suspicion. They had not eaten that day. We went back to my house, picked up some snacks, and headed off to the hospital with the most impressive name in Jamaica, The Victoria Jubilee Hospital.
I dropped them at the entrance and left. But something told me to turn back and make sure they were OK. And I did. As I entered the reception area, I heard someone screaming at the top of her voice from an enclosed area, and the young woman at the other side looking down in pain, and possibly embarrassment.
My prudish editor is not going to publish the avalanche of expletives that punctuated the crude, humiliating tirade I was hearing. So I will put it this way. She asked the young woman if when she and her man was engaging in the sex act, and he was doing certain things to her and she was receiving certain things from him, if they did not stop to think that money would be required to deal with the outcome of those activities.
If she had not repeated what she had said, I would have been willing to believe that I had heard incorrectly. I dealt with the payment. I also dealt with some other 'informal' tips that got her past some potential hurdles to where she needed to be.
Anger, worry and concern are just a few of the emotions I felt as I drove home about three that morning. I decided to write about my experience to both newspapers after I did my own checks in two communities and heard from mothers that this type of treatment was nothing unusual.
Jubilee is the maternity hospital that most of the poorer members of our society attend. The overwhelming majority of young, very young, underage mothers have their first child there. Yes. Many of these women lack most of the social graces. But they are still citizens of this country. Why should paid employees ration respect to them?
'FIGHT TO THE END'
In 2015, the court ruled that the State should pay Tajay's parents $26m for negligence. Their lawyer, Alexander Williams, claims that three years later, nothing is received and the State's lawyers have appealed and vowed to "... fight to the end". Fight what?
Whenever an infant is ready to enter this world, any delay results in a deprivation of oxygen. Lack of oxygen at birth can result in significant, long-term damage to the infant's body and brain. Sometimes it is permanent. These infants may develop disabilities such as cerebral palsy (weak muscles), autism (unresponsive), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), seizures, and behavioural problems. Can you imagine a teenage mother, with no marketable skills, dealing with such a financially and emotionally taxing, never-ending problem?
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that the lifetime cost for individuals with these conditions is estimated at about US$1 million. That is J$130 million. What the hell can J$26 million do?
How many Tajays are out there abandoned and neglected by irresponsible mothers? Can teachers in inner-city schools explain why so many of their students exhibit all the symptoms of ADHD? Or why they just can't seem to learn? Or respond to instructions?
The few discussions I hear on this matter focus on none of these problems. It's just on which Government was in power. Does that matter to Tajay and his family? Yes, it was not this Government. But whoever is in power now needs to act.
Can I get help to, respectfully, ask the Government of Andrew Holness to do the following immediately?
1. Pay what you can to the parents immediately.
2. Starting from 2015, the balance must start bearing interest.
3. A government vehicle should transport Tajay to and from appointments.
4. Any government agency that offers the services he needs should provide it free of any cost.
5. Immediately review the award with a view to making it more realistic.
In February of this year, a woman I did not recognise held on to my hand in Stony Hill Square. She pointed across the street to a healthy-looking girl with a mischievous grin. She was well put together, wearing an immaculately pressed uniform from one of our prominent high schools. I looked back at the woman for an explanation. She said proudly, "Is she."
A Belgium flag for the first reader to guess who she is.