Fri | Jan 19, 2018

The Wright View | Act now, protect our children

Published:Tuesday | November 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Orville Burrell aka "Shaggy" is a Jamaican, who has garnered many awards and fans for his music. What resonated with me, however, is his relentless drive to assist the children of Jamaica through his Foundation, which has literally adopted the Intensive care Unit of the Bustamante Hospital for Children. His hit song, "It wasn't me" has unfortunately become morphed into the "anthem" of adults and officials whenever there is a report of tragic abuse of the nations young. A child is shot in the back of a taxi, and after five years of supposed investigations and gathering of information in order to identify the person, who fired the fatal shot, we are left with officials scrambling to respond to the angry backlash of citizens, who demand "justice"; "IT WASN'T ME". Children on the way to school, at school, representing the school in extra -curricular activity, going home from school, are beaten, robbed, drowned, shot, and drop dead, and the answer from those tasked with the care and protection of our children:"It wasn't me". The follow-up question therefore is: "then who is responsible?"

On Friday the 4th of November a sixteen year-old Jamaican schoolboy, after representing his school in a basketball match, collapsed while being transported from the game. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead! Media reports from the school community are that he died of a heart-related condition. After the untimely and tragic demise of the captain of the St. George's College's football captain, Dominic James, there was a flurry of activity, all geared to not prevent, but to reduce the possibility of future occurrences and to identify and train officials at the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) - controlled sporting events, who can initiate a meaningful response geared at sustaining life. ISSA has arranged meetings with principals, where a Pre-Participation Evaluation (PPE) for all children involved in ISSA supervised sports was mooted to be made mandatory and principals are encouraged to ensure that stretchers and other vital and necessary equipment and trained personnel are present at their events. Yet tragedies continue.




I do not know if any or all of the students at the school where the 16 year-old basketball player attended had PPEs or if arrangements were made to have this important medical intervention done. What I do know is that the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, the Heart Institute of the Caribbean and other concerned medical professionals have come on board in conjunction with ISSA to tackle this problem. Jamaica Bickle, a group of Jamaicans in the USA have donated 15 Automated External Defibrillators (AED's) and offered training in how to use this equipment, and some (not all) schools have actively begun programmes to identify children at risk for cardiac-related events, while involved in sports.

A PPE consists of a standard questionnaire, to be completed with the student athlete and a parent or guardian, who knows the child, answering the questions together, a comprehensive examination that includes Blood tests (hemoglobin, blood sugar and cholesterol levels), urine tests,vision tests, electrocardiograms (ECG's) and an examination by a medical professional. ECG's with unusual tracings are referred to a consultant cardiologist, who will determine if the child needs a cardiac echogram or other tests to determine if the child is at risk for a cardiac event, while playing sports. At the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, this PPE is available to any child involved in ISSA controlled sports at a reduced fee of J$25OO. If the child cannot attend at the offices of the Foundation (on Beechwood Avenue in Kingston) The Foundation will go to the school requesting assistance, with the necessary equipment and experts to conduct the PPE! There is simply no reasonable excuse why our young people involved in school related activity should not be screened to identify those at risk. We owe it to our children. Let us stop blaming children. Let us stop mouthing Shaggy's hit song:" it wasn't me". Let us stand up and accept the fact that children on their way to school, at school, and on their way home from school, ARE the responsibility of adults, who are paid to do their job! We cannot go on like this!