Benefit to raise funds for student battling lupus
Twenty-two-year-old law student Lanesa Downs is singing gratitude to her schoolmates and, especially, André Marriott-Blake, for the organisation of a benefit to help cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical expenses accrued in her fight against lupus.
Downs was diagnosed with the disease weeks ago, after months of doctors' visits and hospitalisation at the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew had failed to determine the cause of a sickness that brought her to death's door.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue.
Downs is now faced with a medical bill of more than half a million dollars and is further burdened by monthly medication expenses of over $150,000.
Marriott-Blake, a classmate of Downs at the Norman Manley Law School, is the conceptualiser of an eight-week live music series at the CRU Bar and Kitchen in St Andrew that will feature upcoming and established artistes.
Each show will cost $1,500 per ticket.
"We are starting 9 p.m. Wednesday, August 20, a fitting opener, with part proceeds going to Lanesa. Recording artiste Konshens heard about it and he volunteered to participate in the first show," said Marriott-Blake.
He added that "Lanesa's need is so imminent because school starts back in September, she'll have to find fees, plus she is in arrears with the UHWI. But she's our beacon of inspiration because is fighting while trying to bring awareness to the disease."
While he does not know Downs personally, Konshens said he felt the need to give his time for the cause.
"It is a worthy cause and I think it makes sense. It's a situation where she needs help, and even though I don't know her personally, I will help," said Konshens, who recently cancelled a part of his European tour because of his struggle with chronic laryngitis.
The artiste noted that Downs' ailment is very serious and that he had been doing much research on it since deciding to take part in the venture.
For her part, Downs beamed with gratitude, noting that she was very grateful and surprised that her schoolmate would go all the way in supporting her.
"It's been stressful. I was in hospital for two months, had near-death experience. Now, we (family) are concerned about the medications, which are expensive. So when I told André that part, he just jumped on it," she told The Gleaner.
The final-year student says even with the hospitalisation and medical visits, her biggest achievement was successfully passing her first-year exams.
"I was in hospital for about two weeks before the exams. I came out and did the exams, and when the results came out, I was very nervous, but I passed all of them," said the past student of St Andrew High for Girls.
Downs praised her parents, friends and the Norman Manley Law School administration for their support.