Sat | Oct 31, 2020

Ailing man frets about future without ageing mom

Published:Monday | September 21, 2020 | 12:13 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Easton O’Haro, of Pear Tree Grove in St Mary, suffers from a degenerative condition that has left him paralysed. His 80-year-old mother and caregiver, Norma O’Haro, sits in the background.
Easton O’Haro, of Pear Tree Grove in St Mary, suffers from a degenerative condition that has left him paralysed. His 80-year-old mother and caregiver, Norma O’Haro, sits in the background.

Easton O’Haro hasn’t been outside his home in Mangrove district, Pear Tree Grove, for about five years.

Paralysed from the waist down about 17 years ago, the 56-year-old lives in the care of his 80-year-old mother, on whom he depends for everything.

From as early as six years old, O’Haro realised that he had difficulties running or moving briskly.

He recounts walking “funny” during his boyhood days. That malady didn’t stop him from participating in sports like cricket although he was forced to have a runner while batting.

But he got slower and slower as he grew older and eventually dropped out of school at age 16.

With tears streaming down his face, O’Haro shared childhood memories of being mocked and jeered.

“Dem use to all call me ‘Tippy’, ‘Cripple’, all kinda someting dem used to call me, and hit me sometimes, and it affect me a lot,” he told The Gleaner.

“It affect my learning a lot. Every day constant mocking and jeering.”

Mobility difficulties are not foreign to the O’Haro family.

O’Haro said that his disorder has never been diagnosed by a doctor. From his recollection, his last doctor’s visit was related to his tonsils when he was 18 years old.

That gap in the reporting of disease and disorder is not uncommon in some sections of rural Jamaica, where poverty and naivety collide, leaving victims and health authorities in the dark. Pear Tree Grove is located in southwest St Mary, not far from the border with St Catherine.

O’Haro believes that the apparent neuromuscular disorder is genetic as most males in his family, including cousins, have had a similar experience. His younger brother was affected by a neuromuscular illness at 19 years old. He died in 2005 at age 36, but the family said that they don’t conclusively know the cause of death.

“The more you get older, the muscles get weaker. I use to hold on and walk round, but me getting worse and worse,” said O’Haro.

“The last time my small bredda go to the doctor before him die, the doctor tell him say if him put on any weight, him nah go be able fi walk, so me try fi keep me weight.”

There are clear signs of the degenerative nature of O’Haro’s condition. He can’t use his right hand, which is wracked with pain up to the shoulder.

Beyond occasional visits from his brother, Daniel, O’Haro depends on his mother, Norma O’Haro, to care for him daily.

Mrs O’Haro, a widow, is hard of hearing and became visually challenged after surviving a stroke. She battles diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis, all while providing care for the oldest of her six children. Her underlying illnesses make her particularly vulnerable to mortal danger if she were to be infected by the new coronavirus.

The two live in a two-bedroom board structure with a small kitchen attached and a pit latrine approximately four metres away from the house. O’Haro wished he had a bathroom attached to the house. Instead, he has to stoop to relieve himself.

“Mi go down fi use the pan, and mi mother haffi help me fi come back up, and sometimes it difficult cause she say, ‘Bwoy, yuh have weight.’ She help me up and go throw it weh.

“Mi no have no stove and mi can’t use the fire. Sometimes mi tumble down in deh,” Mrs O’Haro lamented.

They have been dependent on money from the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, a state welfare initiative, along with the money they earn from selling cigarettes, tobacco, rolling paper, and lighters.

All of O’Haro’s time is spent sitting on his bed fretting about his mother - and his future without her.

“If she pass off before me … , I’m gonna suffer. ... That’s what I worry bout mostly,” he said in-between sobs.