Caribbean news. 29-year-old tries to fight life’s struggles despite challenge
SEVEN years ago, Rosemarie Abrahams was a happy, working class young woman who would play football with her son, take him on walks and enjoying the moments skipping and jumping with him.
But all that has changed after she fell and hit her back, resulting in what was diagnosed as kyphosis.
Kyphosis, also called roundback, is a condition of over-curvature of the upper back. It can be either the result of degenerative diseases, developmental problems, osteoporosis with compression fractures of the vertebrae, or trauma, as in Abrahams’s case.
The most common symptoms for people with kyphosis are the appearance of poor posture with a hump appearance of the back or “hunchback, back pain, muscle fatigue, and stiffness in the back. Most often, these symptoms remain fairly constant. In more severe situations, the patient may notice their symptoms worsening with time. The kyphosis can progress, causing a more exaggerated hunchback. In rare cases, this can lead to compression of the spinal cord with neurologic symptoms including weakness, loss of sensation, or loss of bowel and bladder control. In severe cases it can limit the amount of space in the chest and cause cardiac and pulmonary problems, leading to chest pain or shortness of breath with eventual pulmonary and/or heart failure.
Abrahams, 29, explained how her condition started.
“One day my mother was outside sitting on a bucket but she couldn’t get up. She has arthritis,” she explained to the Jamaica Observer. “She called me and when I went around there she asked me to help her up. Normally I would hold her hand by the wrist or her palm to raise her up. But this time I had to go behind her and put my hands underneath her arms and hug her around the chest. So when I raised her up, her knees gave way and she fell on me and I fell and hit my back on a rock that was there.”
She said that she immediately felt her spine slip and knew something was drastically wrong. After complaining to her mom, she was told that she was okay and that she complained too much.
But something was seriously wrong, as two weeks later, Abrahams started feeling excruciating back pain and visited the Old Harbour Health Centre to have it checked out. She was given a referral to the Spanish Town Hospital to do an X-ray. But despite the constant pain she was told that there was nothing wrong with her. By this time, Abrahams was walking with a limp.
“I keep feeling the pain. I have gone through a lot of medications but it’s just unbearable,” she said.
Abrahams, whose condition has worsened to the point where she is bent over, pulls one leg when she walks, and who has to hold on to people in order to balance herself upright, could not control the tears as she spoke of the effect the situation is having on her 10-year-old son.
“You know I used to play football with my son, now I cannot do that,” she paused as the tears began to flow. “When he was in grade two – normally when they have PTA meeting and I go over there he would say ‘Mommy, don’t come because my friends are mocking me because of how you walk’. So I normally just ask my niece to go in my space. It hurts. It really hurts,” she sobbed. “And I said to him ‘Are you ashamed of me?’ And he said ‘No but I don’t want you to come by the school because my friends are mocking me’. And I said to him ‘If you had one eye and I was to give you one of mine for you to have two, I would do it’. I try to tell him that I was not born this way.”
Abrahams said that she feels her son understands the situation a little better now because she kept telling him that she dreams of being able to play football with him again.
“Now when I’m going anywhere with him I have to hold on to him because I cannot walk by myself. But persons stare and they talk. And sometimes when I see them staring I try to let go of him because I know it hurts him,” she said, wiping her tears.
Abrahams said that not only has her son been mocked but he has had to endure verbal abuse that no child should.
Apart from being told that he has a ‘handicap mumma’ his peers have told him that it’s his mother’s sexual exploits that had caused her to end up that way.
“Real disturbing things have been said that children are not supposed to say to each other at all,” Abrahams said.
Now, she said, her son has become rebellious and she fears it is as a result of her condition, since he is unable to deal with the stress of the jeers and mockery that come his way as a result of her condition.
“Sometimes I just want to die because it really hurts,” the young mother said.
Abrahams further explained that her situation had got worse over time, as now when she is standing she feels a burning sensation from her neck down to her waist, and then travels from her waist into her right leg, while there is a tingling feeling under the bottom of her foot as if she is standing on nails.
However, she has stopped visiting the doctors as the many visits so far have not been fruitful.
“No one is telling me what can be done to correct the situation,” she said. “I have seen a chiropractor in Kingston, but it’s like each time I go there and he tries to slip the vertebrae into place, it slips back out because of the travel from Kingston back to Old Harbour. So every time I go and slip it in, it slips back out. So it’s as if I just went and gave away the money.”
Abrahams said that the cost for therapy for six months is $200,000. This she is unable to afford, since she can no longer work to support herself and her son.
“That amount is just for therapy. I have to get medication and do MRIs to see how I’m progressing,” she explained.
She said that depending on the type of MRI, it could cost from $15,000 upwards, while one set of medication can run up to $8,000.
And while she fears surgery after hearing that she could be crippled if something goes wrong, she believes that if this is what it takes to make her well, she would trust God and have it done.
“But I don’t know how to go about the operation because the doctors are not saying anything,” Abrahams lamented.
Christine Allison, Abrahams’s niece, and the one who escorts her around for both moral and physical support, said that the condition has affected her aunt’s self-esteem and has left her in tears countless times.
“When we go out she would keep asking me if people looking at her funny. A lot of people tease her about it and don’t know what is really going on with her,” Allison said.
“Ninety-seven per cent of the time I have to be on the road with her to be there to hold her hand because she falls a lot. So I have to hold her hand and walk with her to make sure that nothing happens, or that people don’t mess with her because they find it funny. And it bothers her a lot,” she said.
“Sometimes she tells me to walk behind her and tell her how she is walking, but I know exactly what is going on. She is uncomfortable with the situation and it bothers her. I know she needs help because a lot of nights she calls me and she cries, and so I know she needs help. I know if she was not hurting she wouldn’t be crying so much. I wish she would get better so she can go out and walk and not be afraid that she is going to fall,” Allison said.
Allison said that sometimes it is evident that her aunt tries to hide her pain and tries to laugh at the jeers and comments, like ‘look at that handicap’.
Sometimes she even tries to wave at these people despite the verbal pain of their words.
“I really want my back to be fixed and for me to stop walking the way I am walking,” Abrahams said.
“I would like persons to stop looking on me the way they do and try to understand that you can’t judge a book by the cover but you have to read what is inside. I would like the public to stop looking down on a person with a condition. And instead of being rude, try to become that person’s friend because a word of encouragement can put a little more backbone in the person that is suffering and the Bible says we are to be our brother’s keeper, so let’s be our brother’s keeper and help out our brothers who are in need.”
Abrahams said that she desires to go back to school but is unable to do so now since she cannot hold herself up for long but has to be dependent on others. She is also unable to hold her urine for long and this too prevents her from going out and doing the things that she would love to do.
“The only place I go now is church and if I have errands to run I do so in Old Harbour. I don’t go far because I am not able to walk far and people jeer me a lot,” she said.
Abrahams has always dreamed of having her own restaurant because she said, she is a great cook.
Persons wishing to help Abrahams can contact her at 1876-583-4755 or make contributions to her NCB account 874204668.
By Donna Hyusse-Whyte Sunday Observer staff reporter