CHARLES KONG SOO
Sylvia Gittens, from Phase 3, Beetham Gardens, is an unemployed single mother of two—Jeniah Francis, ten, who goes to Nelson Street Girls' RC and Kadeon Gittens, five, from Tranquillity Government Primary School.
Kadeon is a special needs child who was born with spina bifida and cannot walk. Spina bifida is a birth defect in which part of the spine does not form normally, leaving an opening in the back. As a result, the spinal cord and nerves may be damaged.
In his brief five years of life, Kadeon has undergone seven operations, including a shunt placed in his head and has spent most of his life in a brace or a wheelchair. This hasn’t prevented him from living life to the fullest, having fun with his friends or dimmed his determination to lead a normal boy’s life.
Kadeon is not treated any differently by his classmates or teachers, he plays games, studies and eats lunch with them, just like when he attended Servol’s Regional Training and Resources Centre (RTRC) on Pembroke Street, Port-of-Spain, six months prior to attending his new school.
Making funny faces and doing the long-time Hollywood comedian Groucho Marx eyebrow waggle, Kadeon said "I like it at the school. I like my teacher Miss Gonzales and playing in the schoolyard with my friends. I like spelling, maths, and reading."
His mother, who stays with him thoroughout the day, said he made new friends at the school. "I’m there with him in class if he needs to reach for something like a textbook or to wash his hands. Kadeon uses an old, uncomfortable pediatric wheelchair which is falling apart. All now, as he’s growing, he needs a customised, rigid-frame wheelchair designed specifically for his body, but it costs $32,400 from the US."
The wheelchair is to stimulate his spine, because it is curving, and to try and keep his back aligned so he will be more comfortable in moving around.
Gittens said she was researching the various charitable groups from the US who came to T&T to do humanitarian relief for assistance as they sometimes donated wheelchairs to the neediest cases.
Gittens is also waiting for an appointment in May at the Princess Elizabeth Centre in Woodbrook to determine if he is eligible for surgery.
She said a PTSC (Public Transport Service Corporation) Elderly and Differently-Abled Mobile (ELDAMO) bus transported Kadeon to and from school, but if it didn’t come she would have to pay for a taxi.
First-year infants teacher Esther Gonzales said Kadeon picked up his school work quickly but sometimes he forgot it as well. He has still managed to keep up with the work.
She said he was a very hard worker and has a lot of friends in class among the 26 children who were always eager to assist him in everything, if is to take out a pencil or an eraser.
Gonzales said there was discrimination in his class, he played games with the other children, they would run around and play catch and one child will push him in his wheelchair.
She said Kadeon was a loving and respectful child who played kiddies mas with Zebapique Productions.
Flood causes damage
Gittens said she was also recovering from flood waters in August 2018 when she sustained over $40,000 in damage after her stove, fridge, furniture, children's’ clothes, shoes, books, and bed were destroyed. She said she obtained a replacement chair set but it was still unwrapped as she was fearful of another flood destroying it.
Gittens said other residents were affected by the flood, and while they were thankful for some relief effort, it cannot compensate for their losses.
She said she faced multiple floodings in that month. On the first occasion she heard the rain falling heavily, but she was oblivious to how high the water was outside her home. Gittens said her mother who lived next door pounded on her front door to alert her to the danger, water began pouring in from the rear of the house and rising fast. She said Kadeon was sitting in a chair, the water was swirling around him and he began to scream, her nephew came and took him outside.
Gittens said on the second occasion, she was in the Port-of-Spain General Hospital for a medical appointment when she got a call that her house was under water again. She was overwhelmed when she saw her house inundated. Fire officers made a hole in the back wall of her house and a neighbour made a hole in the front wall to let the flood waters escape.
Gittens said she increased the brick height barrier at her front door from one to two concrete blocks after the initial flood waters breached her home and she was hanging on for the sake of her children.
People interested in helping Kadeon, please call 747-7191.