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A special kind of love


Sherie Holder-Olutayo

A special kind of love

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ALTHEA APPLEWHAITE has finally found peace and a sense of happiness again. For her, the last three years since the death of her five-year-old son Kobe have been a long and painful journey in loving, losing and letting go.
 “People thought that after Kobe’s death my life would have been easier because they figured that he was probably a burden on me,” Althea revealed.
The sentiments uttered after his death couldn’t have been further from the truth. Despite the fact that Kobe was a special needs child who suffered from cerebral palsy and couldn’t walk or talk, to Althea he was her world and she took pleasure in caring for him.
She said that she only learned of Kobe’s diagnosis when he was six months old.
“There were no markers; it was just that the umbilical cord was around his neck at birth,” Althea said. “But it was my mum who said she didn’t think that he was developing the way he should be. He had the cold at that time and I remember taking him to Dr Fianni, who was an allergist, because he was wheezing and he told me he was underweight and referred him to Dr Jennifer Campbell, who specializes in that area. She didn’t even examine him; she just looked at him and said, ‘Oh, he has cerebral palsy’.”
 Althea admitted that she didn’t know a lot about the condition and asked the doctor to explain it to her.
 Cerebral palsy is caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain. Most of these problems occur as the baby grows in the womb, but they can happen at any time during the first two years of life, while the baby’s brain is still developing. In some people with cerebral palsy, parts of the brain are injured due to low levels of oxygen in the area. It is not known why this occurs.
  “For me, I got to research it. At first I didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle it being new at motherhood,” Althea said. “But then my mum got behind me and encouraged me.”
 Being a single parent, Althea knew it was not going to be easy, but she took comfort in the support of her family and in her faith in God.
  “Through Kobe I got to meet a lot of other parents like myself,” she said. “He got accepted to the Children’s Development Centre and I met a lot of other parents and we got together and formed an organization.”
  For a while Althea functioned normally as Kobe grew and developed. Then one day he came down with a fever.
  “He didn’t have a cold or anything, just a fever, and I found he was breathing rapidly,” she said. “It was the first time I called the ambulance. We didn’t get to see a doctor right away because there was an emergency, but because he had a really high fever they kept him and did tests. Then they told me Kobe had full blown leukaemia. At that time his body was producing only cancer cells, no healthy cells. He only lasted two weeks after that diagnosis.”
   Both Althea and his doctors were shocked at the diagnosis. Althea admitted that when he died a part of her died too.
  “I remember I used to pray and ask God don’t let me die before Kobe. I guess you have to be careful what you ask for,” she said. “I didn’t want to die and leave him. Even though my family loved him greatly it would have been hard on them.
 “When he was dying I remember holding him and begging him not to leave me and the nurse told me, ‘Don’t do that. Tell him it’s okay to go’. I could sense that he was fighting just to hold on and then I told him it was okay for him to go and I held him as he took his last breath.”
  Though Althea admits it was challenging having a special needs child, she never found it difficult.
 “You know I was so contented,” she said. “I couldn’t go out and leave Kobe. If I was going to someone’s house and Kobe couldn’t come, I wasn’t coming. I would rather have Kobe with me wherever I go and I was contented to stay at home with him.”
 Althea revealed that after his death there was a huge void in her life. She admitted that she was depressed and very angry and at times didn’t want to go on.
 What also happened was that she stopped being involved with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.
  “After he died I needed a break. First, I couldn’t believe it and then I was really angry,” she said. “I couldn’t understand why Kobe died, and I guess I never thought it would have been so soon.”
 But a lot has changed in Althea’s life since Kobe died three years ago. She has another baby, an energetic one-year-old daughter Kiara, and she is planning to resume her work with special needs children.
     “I have Kiara now and my focus is on her and making her life the best,” Althea said. “But I miss Kobe still; I do miss that little boy.”

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