Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer
For more than 25 years Denise Byfield has moved from one battleground to another, struggling in a tug-of-war with a debilitating heart condition which has flung her world out of orbit.
The bane of her health has been rheumatic heart disease, which causes her to suffer constant, excruciating chest pains.
The agony with which she writhes is multiplied because the illness has made her prisoner in her own body.
"I can't breathe properly. I can't walk far and I am not able to do much housework. It is very uncomfortable," she told The Gleaner.
Byfield's deteriorating health has forced her to abandon routine activities, as well as hand over her five children to their father, as she is no longer able to care for them.
Turn for the worst
"I can't manage. I have to depend on people to do everything for me and I can't do anything for a living again," she said.
The 37-year-old, who was a vendor before her health took a turn for the worst, sometimes suffers pain to her right side related to an ailing kidney.
The cardiac condition, which was diagnosed when she was 11 years old, has tagged her with dysfunctional heart valves, as well as increasing concerns among family about her health.
"The two heart valves are leaking and she needs help to change them, but the family is unable to help to save her life," said her sister, Suzette Byfield.
Denise Byfield has been in and out of hospitals and doctor's offices for most of her life, but now her only hope lies in open-heart surgery.
"The doctor said I am going to die if I don't get it done, and I don't want to die," she lamented.
Dr William Foster, cardiologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies, said Byfield's condition is very severe.
"The knowledge that she needed surgery came to her attention relatively recently and this surgery would put her back on her feet," Foster explained.
The hefty price tag of the surgery, if it were to be done in Jamaica - half a million dollars - deflated Byfield's hopes of a change in fortunes, but Encino Tarzana Medical Centre in Califonia has offered to do the operation free of cost.
Good Samaritans have also footed the bill for the airfare.
However, Byfield is still struggling to generate enough funds to cover visa costs and post-operative care.
"I am pleading for help to save my life. I don't have the money to do this surgery and the surgery is my only hope to continue living," Byfield said in an impassioned appeal.
She needs approximately J$12,000 to pay for a visa as well as US$400 (J$34,000) for out-of-hospital expenses while she is abroad.
Persons who are willing to assist may make donations to Bank of Nova Scotia, Ocho Rios, account 1973, or call her at 831-1274.