Wed | Aug 16, 2017


Published:Saturday | September 19, 2015 | 9:00 AM
Patel Cruickshank

YALLAHS, St Thomas:

Patel Cruickshank was a dedicated father and hard working farmer from Yallahs, St Thomas, before tragedy struck in 2009. Cruickshank stood at his gate at his home in Pondside talking to a friend in the late evening on February 1 when he was shot in the lower back by a lone gunman.

As a result of that injury, Cruickshank has spent the last seven years confined to a wheelchair, and spends most of his time at the Princess Margaret Hospital's integrated ward, where he is being treated for the pain and paralysis caused by his wounds. The bullet that struck Cruickshank was successfully removed, but it damaged his spinal column, which resulted in fragmented bone damaging his spinal cord.

As a result, Cruickshank told Family and Religion that he suffers from constant back, joint, and stomach pain, and his legs have little sensation and cannot function.

'The medication I am taking does not help the pain much. And it is expensive to get some of them, so I only buy what I can afford from the prescriptions I get," he said.

Cruickshank, who was an active man before the incident, has found it challenging to adjust to his condition, pointing out that his financial, mental, and emotional condition has deteriorated. He said an arrest was made in the shooting, but that the case has been brought up for mention several times in the Resident Magistrate's Court, sometimes without his knowledge or participation.

"I know he (the alleged shooter) is out on bail. The police do not call me to keep me up-to-date on the case. I have to keep calling constantly. Sometimes they will call me if they need me in court, but most times, I don't hear anything," he said.

Cruickshank has been farming since he was a young man, but his one-acre farm, with its callaloo, okra, sweet pepper, and tomato, is now in the care of his stepfather, who assists him with profits from the farm to pay for several tests, including frequent ultrasounds, and medication. Most worrying to Cruickshank, however, is the impact his condition has had on his only son, Patel Cruickshank Jr, affectionately called 'Buds'.

"He lives with his mother. He has some trouble with his schoolwork, he is misbehaving. And I know that it's because of what is happening with me that he is upset. He has to be going to counselling now," Cruickshank said, also revealing that it weighed heavily on him not to be able to fully contribute financially to his son's life.

In the midst of his difficulties, however, there is hope. Revelation: The Truth, a Christian outreach group and the United Firefighters Foundation has partnered to put on a series of events to raise money for a surgery that could allow Cruickshank to walk again. The surgery is offered at the Stokes Mandeville Hospital in England, and is estimated to cost £115,000, which includes three months rehabilitation as well as room and board. The last such fund-raiser was a benefit gospel concert, held at the Weslyan Holiness Church in Port Morant, featuring St Thomas stars Sis Bonnie and Tash. Organised by Vinette Johnson, who found out about Cruickshank through the outreach group's social media postings, the concert raised crucial funds and also awareness about Cruickshank's plight. Johnson revealed that the group plans to expand fund-raising activities to Yallahs, and also to solicit donations on the streets. The group is also attempting to locate a facility closer to Jamaica that would offer the surgery at a less expensive cost. An account has also been opened at the Jamaica National Building Society where donations can be made to account number: 11069808.

Cruickshank said he tries his best to maintain a positive outlook, hopeful that one day he will be able to be back on his feet and supporting himself. The 39-year-old spent his birthday on September 9 surrounded by friends and family, and is thankful for their continuing support as he finds his way to recovery.