Yahneake Sterling, Staff Reporter
Delroy Subaran (seated front), with his mother Paula Gopie (left) and family members at the Donald Sangster International Airport after their return to Jamaica on January 7. Others in the picture are: Anthony Miller (second left), Lisa Gopie and Ruel Wallace. - Contributed
After nine years of racing heartbeats and many fearful moments, Paula Gopie can finally take a deep breath and relax.
Gopie who is from Negril in Westmoreland, has had a challenging time as a mother from the day her only child was born.
On November 22, 1997, Paula gave birth to a son - Delroy Subaran.
What should have been the most joyous time of her life became a nightmare. Immediately after birth it was discovered that her baby had malrotation of the intestines.
At three months, he received corrective surgery. Just when the worrying mother was beginning to relax, she was informed that Delroy had a heart tumour.
Living on the edge
Life after hearing the news was like living on the edge.
"I was told that he had a hole in his heart (along with several other complications, he wasn't getting any oxygenated blood, and sometimes the blood was being pumped in the wrong direction," Gopie explained.
Due to the complications of his heart, Delroy was always blue, suffered from shortness of the breath and lethargic.
Indications from local doctors was that Delroy would not live for long.
Though disheartened by her son's condition, Paula was brave and each day faced the world with new hope and a smile.
"I had hope that he would get better, but it was depressing and there were times when I became nervous especially when I got a call from his school. But I always had high hopes and I prayed a lot and he (Delroy) too," Gopie explained.
In December last year, her prayers were answered, when the Rotary Club of Portmore became aware of Delroy's condition through a referral from Dr. Charmaine Scott, paediatric cardiologist at the Bustamante Children's Hospital.
The information was passed on to Guy McCallum co-ordinator of the "Gift of Life" programme in Jamaica. Gift of Life is a New York-based organisation that sponsors surgeries for children with heart-related complications. However, Gopie and Delroy's trip was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Savanna-la-Mar.
On December 19, 2006, just weeks after Delroy's ninth birthday, he received open-heart surgery. His case was very high risk and had several cardiologists puzzled. However, the doctors were able to perform the miraculous surgery that will enable Delroy to live a normal life.
"I had no negative feelings at all. I was eating and laughing, which maybe wasn't normal, but I was not nervous," said Gopie.
Paula Gopie and her son Delroy Subaran upon their return home from the United States where he had surgery. - Contributed
Before the surgery, Delroy told his mother, "Mommy I'm going to think about you and I'm going to see God."
Though taken aback by this statement, Gopie responded, "Don't worry, everything will be all right and when you wake up, I am the first person you are going to see."
After the six-hour surgery, Gopie was the first person Delroy saw.
When he could finally speak, Paula said she asked if he had seen God. His response, "Yes, He was standing right beside me, but He didn't look at me."
One month later, Delroy who aspires to be a doctor so he can help to save people's lives, is an energetic little boy who has never been happier.
"I am feeling good, very happy, I feel more happy now," he told Flair.
" I don't fall asleep a lot anymore and I can walk longer distances without feeling tired," he added.
For Gopie, the struggle through the darkness was long, but the light at the end of the tunnel is the brightest she has seen.
"It's like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel so carefree now. It's hard to adjust to his new-found energy, it's frightening at times," she said with a smile in her voice.
Gift of Life was started in New York in 1973 by a young Rotarian following the plea from a five-year-old Ugandan girl for open heart surgery. Delory's surgery was done at the Rainbow Children's and Babies Hospital in Ohio, U.S.A. Accommodation and surgery were sponsored by Gift of Life, while air transportation was sponsored by American Airlines.
Since 2001, a total of seven Jamaican children have received successful surgeries through Gift of Life.