Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Unstoppable spirit

Published:Saturday | September 17, 2016 | 9:00 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston
D’Andra Williams is all smiles in her graduation photo.
Williams' legs before the surgeries.
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There is one thing Diana Barrett and her daughter, D'Andra Williams have in common - the determination to overcome whatever challenges come their way, through love, encouragement and faith in God.

The recently-released Caribbean Examination Certificate (CSEC) results for Williams were the culmination of pain, hard work and victory.

Williams spent much of her time in her early years at the Mona Rehabilitation Centre after being fitted from age two with special shoes, as one of her legs was naturally bent and shorter than the other.

As she grew older, she was diagnosed with Blount's Disease (a deformity of the growth pad in the knees).

Years after trying corrective measures for the legs, her mother was advised that surgery was the next option.

"By the time she was in her sixth year her right leg was 90 per cent bent and her left leg 85 per cent. Although persons often stared at her, she played as hard as the other children showing them that she was just as active as they were," Barrett told Family and Religion about her daughter's fight to beat the odds.

Barrett recalled how her daughter was infection-prone and had to be lifted or pushed around in a wheel chair.

"In spite of these challenges she was always in a book," she said of a daughter who refused to allow her situation to interrupt her desire to learn.

Five years and seven surgeries later, in 2010 Williams was able to attend school as during the period of surgeries she was unable to do so.

At 12 years old it meant sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) without much school time - but it was something Williams wanted to do in spite of her mother's 'plan B' to get her into a technical high school without her sitting the exam.

"I contacted the Ministry of Education and I was advised that she had to do Grade Four Literacy Test, which she did and passed. A friend of mine working at Mico Primary School advised me to send her to the summer school. I did that and the teachers there were impressed by her performance which got her a place in the school," Barrett recalled.

Speaking about her struggles, Williams said she managed to keep her focus after returning to school because she was highly motivated.

"I had set certain goals for myself and I was determined to achieve them. I knew that most of my mother's savings were pumped into my medical expenses and therefore failing for me was not an option. My mother and so many others had invested so much in me and that in itself boost my motivation and helped me to remain focused in all that I did," she said.

Faith for Williams is a powerful weapon and it is one she recommends to all those who are facing challenges.

"I doubt I would have done so well if God wasn't by my side. From an early age I tried to accept the fact that all that was happening was for a reason, and there was nothing I could do to change that fact. I trusted God enough to know that if He brought me to it, He would bring me through it, and so far He has," she shared.

Although mother and daughter are now rejoicing at the nine CSEC passes with eight distinctions, Williams said it was not an easy road earning that accomplishment.

"Sometimes the pressure proved to be almost unbearable. Imagine going to school and juggling numerous subjects plus other responsibilities, while at the same time you're in and out of the hospital having surgery after surgery."

She had to focus on the rehabilitation of her legs while at the same time trying to stay afloat academically. This, she said was a real burden.

"It was hard; very hard. Sometimes I felt exhausted both emotionally and mentally and for me that is worse than any amount of physical exhaustion.

"To get through it, I would ask myself the question: what will my story be? Is it going to be that I faced a hurdle in my life and decided that it was too high for me? Or is it going to be that I bounded over that hurdle with everything else that God blessed me with? After that, it's easier to regroup and keep pressing forward," said Williams who has triumphed over the hurdles and is now in sixth form at Campion High School. Two weeks into the new school term, she was faced with another surgery.

"Our God has brought us this far and I am sure he will continue. I know that sometimes she wishes that her father was here, but I know that he is with her in spirit," said Barrett. Williams' father was killed by gunmen in 2010.

Barrett expressed with confidence that together she and her daughter can tackle each obstacle with renewed faith.