With God as her guide
THE BANFIELD/BEST family has gone through an ordeal many will never have to face.
They have survived heartache, worry, panic, fear and a near-death experience and have come out all the stronger for it.
Their story revolves around a brave nine-year-old, Keana Banfield, who came down with a mysterious virus a year ago which sent their lives into a tailspin. The WEEKEND NATION visited the family on Tuesday in Welches Terrace, St Thomas, where they were staying for a week with family. By the time this story appears, they should already have returned to Florida for Keana to continue her rehabilitation and attend a special school.
“What started it all initially was a rash which started around her eyes and progressed from there. We sought treatment at the hospital but within a few days her lungs started to fill with fluid, her kidneys collapsed and she started to take on a lot of water and swell up . . . [which] put pressure on her heart,” said her mother, 29-year-old Kysha Banfield-Best.
From there, Banfield-Best bore witness in helpless horror as her precious little girl, the eldest of three, deteriorated. She said Keana came down with toxic shock syndrome and pneumonia, became dependent on a ventilator to breathe and contracted cardiomyopathy, osteoporosis and osteomyelitis.
The family sold all their possessions and pleaded for help from corporate Barbados which came through in a big way. Keana’s former school, Christ Church Girls’ and even people from abroad pitched in. They raised the initial funds to take Keana to Miami and while there, her plight attracted the attention of the International Kids Wonderfund, which negotiated the price of the surgeries. Even so, the price tag was over US$1 million.
But through it all, even when Banfield-Best faltered, Keana remained strong and never lost her faith in God to pull her through.
“I don’t really think I was like this before this process,” Keana said of her faith. “I remember when I told my mum to be strong for my brother and sister after I’m gone, but then I realised I wanted to be with them too. I think God taught me lessons; I have never had a negative mind against the Lord – there is a reason behind it all.
“I know I’m still a child, but I really think people should pray more and ask God to forgive and protect them from bad stuff. Some may be negative when they get sick and ask, ‘why me?’ but it’s not about that, it’s about praying because everything God does, He does for a reason,” she said.
Banfield-Best said Keana was her hero, adding she never coerced her daughter into turning to God in such a big way.
“Keana is very grounded. I never forced her into being a strong Christian but she has always been strong in her faith. I think she is one of the strongest and most endearing and enduring people I have ever known. I aim to be more like her, which may sound strange to say, but she has taught me a lot. In her position, I probably would have already given up,” she said.
This did not mean the road was smooth however as Banfield-Best said she and her husband Oliver Best, Keana’s stepfather, spent a lot of time trying to hide their tears from their daughter.
“As a parent, you try not to let your children see how much you are hurting because you don’t want to freak them out. There was a lot of pain during some of the procedures, even with the medications and I almost passed out hearing her scream; I don’t think anyone could understand unless they go through something similar,” she said.
Banfield-Best said her daughter was not out of the woods yet as her heart was operating at just over half capacity although she said this was miles better than before. She said the next move involved constant monitoring overseas with the possibility of hip bone replacement surgery, as her right hip bone and femur had been removed due to infection, although this would not happen until Keana was much older.
As for her other children, Elizabeth Best, 6 and Nathan Best, 3, she said it was hard on them too.
“Nathan is terrified of us leaving him again so he is sticking to me like glue and Elizabeth is jealous of all the attention Keana is getting, but I think the entire process had brought us closer together,” she said.
Keana’s name and likeness is all over the web on sites such as YouTube; media sites; the International Kids Wonderfund; Gofundme; Facebook and more. As such, she said her rise to fame has been a little overwhelming.
“Honestly, I am very uncomfortable. There are people showing up at the door to interview me every other week. I had always dreamt of being famous, but now I would just like a break,” she said.
Keana and her mother returned to Fort Myers, Florida yesterday. Banfield-Best said it would be hard for the family to separate again, but for now it was necessary because, even though Keana is doing much better, they still had hurdles to face.
“Keana has to remain over there to be monitored, but we can’t work there and we don’t have insurance here as our policies were with CLICO and you know what happened with that. Right now we are a little stuck but if we have to move overseas permanently, we will,” she said.
As for Keana, she said she felt between two minds concerning leaving Barbados again.
“I have made friends there who live in the same apartment complex as us, but it is sad to leave home as there can be cold and I will miss the food here. The food there is not as good as here; the cheese is like plastic and they don’t season the chicken,” she said.