Jamaican heart patient Karessa Marshall says she is now stranded in Baltimore, USA and is blaming the Ministry of Health for reneging on an agreement to pay for a surgery, which she needs to stay alive.
Marshall is appealing for help, after she said the ministry told her on Wednesday, just days before her surgery, which was scheduled for Friday, that there were no funds.
“The ministry told me that they don’t have any money right now. I’m stranded, and don’t know what to do,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
According to the 34-year-old, the ministry had said that if she could pay for her visa, air fare, and accommodation, the Government would assist her with the surgery, if the preparatory tests determined that she needed the operation.
Marshall said that she is in limbo, as she does not know how she will pay for the US$56,000 surgery.
Marshall, who had to postpone a previous appointment with the Johns Hopkins Hospital medical team, due to lack of funds, said she could not have missed this second appointment, or her case would have been dismissed. She said it was why she took the risk of going to Baltimore, even without the money for the tests and surgery in hand, banking on the ministry’s help.
“I couldn’t make this appointment miss me… I wouldn’t have spent US$1,500 if they had not said they would help… they said they would look about the medical part of it,” she stated.
But the Ministry of Health said that Marshall’s account is not accurate, as there was no agreement to pay for the surgery. A ministry representative close to the case, but who did not want to give her name, explained that Marshall, in an interview with the health ministry and the Ministry of Finance, had been told that she would need to provide an invoice for the surgery, after her tests were done.
“We did not know the cost, because she did not even know if she would need surgery; she was asked to send back to us the cost for the test,” the representative said, adding that the ministry is still awaiting that information.
She, however, did not say whether or not Marshall would receive assistance once the ministry was in receipt of the invoice.
In the meantime, Marshall said that the results of the tests done so far are not good, as doctors are saying her condition is more serious than was first thought.
Marshall needs ablative surgery, but this requires an electrophysiology study beforehand to assess whether or not she is a good candidate for the procedure. This test is not available in Jamaica, forcing her to seek it overseas.
Her condition came to the fore last June when her heart suddenly, and frighteningly, started skipping beats, accompanied by weakness and blackouts. Doctors were puzzled, as there was no improvement in her symptoms, even with medication. Marshall contacted Johns Hopkins Hospital, which agreed to take her case, and perform the surgery once all the tests proved that she was a good candidate for that type of procedure.
Now, Marshall continues to hope for the best, insisting that she will not give up the fight for her life.
“This has got to be the worst experience of my life, but if it means I have to go to Times Square with my music and show people the latest dance moves from Jamaica, then so be it. I have no limits right now when it comes to helping myself,” she stated.
People who continue to rally around her have set up an account for donations at: gofundme.com/karessa.