ANDRE Williams was always complaining of feeling weak, but as is common among a number of teens, his mother felt this was just an excuse to get out of work. Little did she know that his situation was so serious that it could cost him his life.
Williams suffers from what doctors have diagnosed as a rare and serious condition known as aplastic anaemia. This is a condition that occurs when the body stops producing enough new blood cells. Aplastic anaemia leaves persons feeling fatigued and with a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding.
The condition may occur suddenly, or it can occur slowly and gets worse over a long period of time. Treatment for aplastic anaemia may include medications, blood transfusions or a stem cell transplant. Aplastic anaemia can be very severe and even fatal.
“I was always accusing him that he was bleaching because his colour was pale,” his mother Everlin Bryan told the Sunday Observer as she stood by his bedside at the Kingston Public Hospital last week. “And when you tell him to do anything he couldn’t do it because him feel weak. Whenever I sent him out somebody would come and say you know that him sick because as him walk a short distance him bend down.”
She said that this became noticeable shortly after Williams contracted the chikungunya virus last September.
“Him drop down one morning, so I took him to the Princess Margaret Hospital and the doctor say the blood count was three. So they took him down here (KPH) and they did a bone marrow test and it showed that the bone marrow not producing,” she explained. “And he has been in and out of the hospital since. He has been here multiple times. I can’t even count it.”
A letter from the KPH dated February 20, 2015 stated that young Williams had been diagnosed in November with a medical condition that is not presently treatable in Jamaica.
“He has been accepted for treatment at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In-hospital patient care is free. However, he is responsible for out-of-hospital expenses including accommodation and food, as well as airfare,” the letter states.
“He is requesting financial assistance in order for him to be able to access this life-saving treatment,” the letter, signed by the consultant haematologist at that hospital said.
Bryan said the situation has taken a toll on both her son and herself as every two weeks — if he is not admitted in the hospital, she has to travel with him from their home in St Thomas into Kingston for blood transfusion. She said because his immune system is so weak he has a sore throat that has acted up and that does not seem to be getting any better.
She explained that while she is not sure of the exact amount of money that may be needed to care for her son while in the United States, the treatment should run a duration of six to eight months. She said she has been advised by the hospital that she may need US$800 for evaluation for two weeks in the States, but unsure of the total cost of their stay.
“I want some help for him because I don’t have it and his father not helping me with him. No matter how I ask him,” the distressed mother pleaded. “If I had it, him would be up there long time.”
As he laid on the hospital bed in a secluded room, restless and pale, the 20-year-old past student of the Robert Lightbourne High School in St Thomas said he had plans of enrolling in the HEART Trust/National Training Agency, since his life’s dream is to become a renowned artist.
“I wanted to become an artist or an art teacher,” he said. “The sickness can’t stop me because drawing is not something I would have to walk up and down to do. I would just sit down and draw. But it’s just that I am not sure if my immune system will manage most of the chemicals in the paint and so on,” he reasoned. “But I just want to go to the USA and get the treatment done and see what the outcome of it is. The journey continues from there.”
Williams said that despite his illness he wants to be given the chance to live so that he can not only fulfil his career dream, but also to someday marry and have children.
“But at the moment I feel very weak,” he said.
Williams and his mother explained that he started drawing while he was about seven years old and attending the Seaward Primary and Junior High. Then he could be seen slouched over his books doing his version of Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, and just about any cartoon character he could see.
“When I look at life, I look at it from a different perspective,” he said. “Sometimes I look at some things and I wonder how they are created and if I could put them on paper, and that is what I would do. And then one day I sat down and my teacher was telling me that he would want me to be a cartoonist, and so I started drawing humans. And then from there I just got attracted to the realistic part of things. So every time I draw something it gets real and realer, sometimes I can’t believe I am the one who did it so I said I am not stopping.”
Williams said he is inspired by the Mona Lisa portrait done by Leonardo da Vinci, and is also challenged to be the second person in history who will be able to do an exact replica of the stunning beauty, just as Da Vinci did.
The young man’s mother said doctors have informed her that based on his present condition they would need to try to get him overseas before the summer holiday chips in.
“I’m worried. Sometimes I feel as if my mind is gone. And when night come I cry a lot because I am wondering how he is managing and how we are going to get the money,” the mother of five said.