Young twin girls need help
by Carlos Atwell
Gemma Benjamin is again crying out for help.
The 37-year-old mother of five is nearing desperation regarding the health of her youngest children – four-and-a-half-year-old twins Toriaya and Tariaya Brathwaite, who both have a myriad of disorders. Tariaya, who was born a few minutes after her sister, is in a more dire situation as she is need of surgery.
This is not the first time Benjamin has made a public appeal about her plight. Her challenges were highlighted in September 2017 in the Sunday Sun, detailing her issues with day care. She was also featured in the July 2018 edition of Better Health magazine. Last year in May, entertainer Richard Stoute held a concert for the girls.
Benjamin told the Saturday Sun the condition of her youngest child is worsening.
“Both girls were born with congenital Zika virus, resulting in microcephaly. They also have cerebral palsy and the youngest has West Syndrome, which is the beginning stage of epilepsy. They also have hernias, though Tariaya is more severe as she has a uterine prolapse.
“Right now, my main concern is getting surgery for Tariaya. She does not have the ability to digest solid food; everything has to be blended.
“She’s currently on a waiting list at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) to have surgery to have a tube placed inside her to help her digest food, but despite being given several appointments at the hospital, we have been informed there are no beds there. In the meantime, she’s been constipated and passing spots of blood,” she said, adding the father of her children was not assisting.
The distraught mother said she had been trying to contact the children’s doctor to no avail and had reached the point where she was seeking help to fund a private surgery, though this might not be easy.
“We have been searching to see if there’s anyone else who can do the surgery. We’ve even reached out to hospitals overseas but we have not heard anything as yet. I am not even sure how much it will cost,” she said.
Benjamin, a quality assurance specialist at a call centre, said neither girl could walk, but while Toriaya was progressing slowly, her sister was still operating at the level of a six-month-old.
“At 29 weeks old, the doctors let me know there were going to be complications. I was shocked! I had never even heard about some of these diseases and conditions before, so I had to do research and I’ve learned to adjust, but I’m still learning every day.”
Benjamin lives in a one-bedroom Government unit in The Pine, St Michael, which she said was too small for them. She also pointed out how bushy the area next to her was, which she said contributed to her catching Zika in the first place and passing it on to her twins.
When contacted, her parliamentary representative Santia Bradshaw said Benjamin’s case was receiving active attention.
“When Gemma first moved to The Pine, she occupied the unit with the twins while her other children visited her from time to time. I previously wrote to the National Housing Corporation (NHC) requesting a two-bedroom house because the twins were in need of additional space to properly address their physical therapy and other interventions,” she said.
“Since then, all of Gemma’s children now reside at the house with her and NHC will therefore now have to explore suitable accommodation for the entire family. With respect to the surgery, contact was made with QEH and I expect a positive response shortly on the new date.”
Benjamin said she was not going to give up hope, adding: “I put all of my trust and faith in God.”