Tue | May 22, 2018

Rising Above Adversity Single Dad defies the odds

Published:Friday | July 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill
ContributedRichard Consalvries with his daughter Shenequa, and Kim Lee, head of channel marketing, sponsorships and brand experience at FLOW Jamaica.

While almost any man can father a child, there is more to the role of a dad in a child's life. It is more challenging to adjust to being a single father because this role can become fraught with difficulties particularly with minimal support from family and friends.

For many years, being a single father has been a challenge for 36-year-old Richard Consalvries. He has been caring for his nine-year-old daughter, Shenequa, who has special needs and was recently diagnosed with Crohn's disease.

The journey started with his spouse, but quickly dissipated after she moved on to seek after better employment prospects. Because of her relative proximity to his home in Manchester, Consalvries did not anticipate that he would end up being the sole caregiver for the child.


Inner strength


He found an inner strength to care for his daughter and told The Gleaner, "I have to do everything for her bathe her, feed her, take her to school, and I get someone to comb her hair. After school, I take her home and then, depending on the job I am doing, I go back and finish up," Consalvries said.

In 2015, things took a turn for the worse. While at work, he received a phone call that his daughter was not well and needed urgent medical attention.

"She was having diarrhoea and using the bathroom frequently. I took her to the doctor and she was given medication, which caused bumps all over her body and she was not improving. I took her to the Mandeville Regional Hospital, where she was admitted for one week and was treated," Consalvries said.

However, for several weeks, the child's condition worsened and, thinking perhaps she was anxious because her mother was away, Consalvries took Shenequa to visit her. Unfortunately, this did not work and the child was admitted to the St Ann's Bay Hospital.

"They tried everything for her, but the symptoms remained. They even referred her to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), but they were unable to find a space for her at the time. After she was released, the symptoms dissipated somewhat and she had a break for several months," Consalvries said.

Throughout this period, Consalvries, although not an ardent Christian, said that prayer kept him going and God supplied his every need. But on May 26, Shenequa was admitted to the UHWI, where she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.


Bowel disease


Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Inflammation caused by Crohn's disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people.

While at the hospital, Consalvries was observed taking care of his daughter, even washing her clothes, which were quite a bundle. He even created his own bed to sleep on by placing chairs together and, at times, sleeping on the floor.

"It was the hardest thing for me to leave her. The nurses even begged me to leave and get some rest, but I couldn't do it. It got to the point where people saw what was happening and tried to help me. Someone even gave me a place to stay so I could be with my daughter and get some rest," Consalvries said.

Among those who observed Consalvries taking care of his daughter was Naomi Francis, corporate communications manager at FLOW Jamaica. Francis was touched by Consalvries' dedication to his daughter.

She said she had not, in a long time, seen such commitment, especially from a young man, for the welfare of his daughter. She approached her team and they decided to reward him for his outstanding efforts. Consalvires received a Moto G cell phone and credit from FLOW.

Kim Lee, head of channel marketing, sponsorships and brand experience at FLOW Jamaica, said it was outstanding to see how well he cared for his daughter.

"We are not very used to seeing fathers around, plus, as single father, the added value he brings is commendable and should be celebrated," Lee said.

Shenequa is very proud of her father.

"I love Daddy because he takes good care of me. He does everything for me and makes me happy," she said.

Consalvries said he is committed to the task of caring for his child even at this difficult period of their life. "I just pray that she will get better.

"The trips to the hospital are tiring, but she is getting the treatment to improve her health. It is a lot of work, many sleepless nights and trips to the bathroom, but it is worth it," Consalvries said.