NCB Foundation grants a wish to Lee-Jae Gordon
Eighteen-year-old Lee-Jae Gordon is a budding neurosurgeon with a creative, entrepreneurial spirit. She is the second of three siblings in a household with a special-education teacher for a mother, and a father who works in insurance.
Currently in upper sixth form at Immaculate Conception High School, her favourite subject is biology, and following high school, all she wants is to help people with disabilities. “I grew up going to school with my mum and seeing kids with disabilities and disorders. This is why I want to study medicine after high school, I want to help to correct these issues and help persons lead normal, happy and functional lives,” Lee-Jae mentioned.
For the Gordon family, the holidays are usually a happy time of year. It’s all about togetherness, spending time with loved ones and creating and building bonds. Usually, they have a big family dinner in the country, set up their record player and sing and dance the night away altogether.
This year, the holidays looked a bit different for two reasons. One, the most obvious, is the COVID-19 and the many physical and financial limitations it has placed on families’ celebrations the world over. Two, and the more pressing, is the status of Lee-Jae’s recent medical diagnosis.
RENEWED SENSE OF HOPE
However, with the help of an $850,000 donation from the NCB Foundation under their annual holiday programme, Grant A Wish, Lee-Jae and her family have a renewed sense of hope as they tackle her rare diagnosis in 2021. Chiari Malformation Type 1 – a rare disorder in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal, occurs when part of the skull is abnormally small or misshapen. This disorder can potentially cause severe, life-threatening complications and requires surgical intervention before her condition worsens.
“She was diagnosed on October 24, 2020, I know the exact date. She had started complaining of back pain up to two years ago after she started playing lacrosse. Initially, the paediatrician thought that may be the cause, but even after she stopped, the pain continued and her symptoms got worse. Whenever she sneezed, coughed or even laughed she was in pain. It was so hard to watch,” her mother Davia Moore Gordon lamented.
COVID-19 has presented numerous challenges to the Gordon family, but in many ways it has also provided a space for positive outcomes. “It’s because of the physical restrictions due to COVID-19 and having Lee-Jae home with me 24/7 that I was able to observe her more closely and see that something really was wrong and that we urgently needed to get this checked out,” her mother noted.
The first X-Ray was clear, but an MRI discovered the Chiari. Now, they are testing for a second condition which could also be affecting her, called a syrinx, which is a build-up of fluid in the spinal cord. The doctors are now waiting for those results so that they will know how to proceed with her condition, but the surgeries necessary will likely cost upwards of J$4 million.
“It’s been an absolute rollercoaster – financially, mentally and emotionally - and none of us were prepared for this, the pandemic nor the diagnosis! We were already struggling to figure out a way to get her through medical school, then with the pandemic and this diagnosis things were looking even trickier. I had really reached a breaking point. The point where I had no choice but to let go and let God. This experience, and having received this holiday miracle from NCB Foundation, I am telling you, it really is a testament to believing that when you let God, He will sort you out. It has put us in a much better place both financially and mentally,” both Lee-Jae and her mother exclaimed.
“Thank you NCB Foundation, thank you Jamaica! I am extremely, extremely grateful! This money will be put to great use to assist me in my surgery and post-surgery endeavours! As a way to cope with all the craziness of this year, I started my own crochet business as well as a volunteer organisation that helps children,” Lee-Jae explained.
Lee-Jae is among over 60 recipients in the 2020 NCB Foundation Grant A Wish Programme. Year on year, NCB Foundation looks to spread love and support throughout their various ‘Grant A Wish’ initiatives islandwide, which see donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars made to individuals across Jamaica.