Sister's death inspires foundation ... formed to help May Pen Hospital
On October 23, 2014, when Delroy Graham lost his only sister after she succumbed to her battle with leukaemia, he was devastated. Graham, who had migrated to Canada for a number of years, missed out on watching his little sister grow up.
She died at age 35 and that made the pain even more for Graham, who had big plans for her. As such, he decided to honour her memory.
"I wanted to give another young person a chance at life. Right then and there, I decided to start a foundation in her memory. So along with the help and support of my partner Marcia Tulloch, The Gerdine Graham Foundation was birthed," he shared with The Gleaner.
According to Graham, the aim of the foundation is to help support leukaemia patients and their families.
"We also want to increase awareness about the disease and to emphasise the need to donate blood. Our first project was to help leukaemia patients in the May Pen Hospital because that is where she spent some of the final days of her life," he said.
Graham said following a conversation with senior medical doctor at the facility, Dr Bradley Edwards, who informed him that they were treating children at the time suffering from leukaemia, the desire was born to raise funds to expand the nursery at the hospital and to build an intensive neonatal/oncology unit, since leukaemia is predominantly a childhood disease.
He said the nursery will be equipped to treat all children with life-threatening issues.
March 20 last year - on what would have been his sister's 36th birthday - the foundation held its first fundraiser in Toronto, Canada, raising over Ca$2,000 towards the May Pen Hospital project.
On March 18, the foundation will host its second annual fundraiser, and according to Graham, he is anticipating even more support.
"We are committed to the project at the May Pen Hospital, and upon completion of this project, and with the support of the public, we will be able to help other hospitals," he said.
Graham, also through the foundation, wants to help individuals and their families whose lives have been interrupted by this terrible disease.
"I don't mean only for institutions, but helping people and their households. I know first-hand the cost of travelling to the hospital two to three times a week to replenish necessities, especially if it is not close to home, plus the other expenses associated with having a loved one hospitalised," he said.
Graham, whose main contact at the hospital is Dr Edwards, had high praises for him.
"His love and commitment to his patients and his country is really encouraging. I am also pleased with the support and to see how happy the staff at the May Pen Hospital are about the thought of what we are trying to do," he said.
Graham, who hails from Mocho, Clarendon, said his sister was the only girl for his parents, who had eight children. He migrated to Canada in 1987.
He spent his sister's final days with her at the May Pen Hospital and noted that he was impressed by the love and care the nurses showed - which is now his motivating factor in trying to help that particular hospital.