Mon | Jun 17, 2019

Taking a step in the right direction

Published:Monday | March 7, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Orthotic specialist Dawn Turner (left) fits an orthotic brace on the feet of seven-year-old Renique Harris, while Renique's mother, Nicola Gordon, assists. - Photo by Janet Silvera

Orthotic clinic aids kids with walking defects

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer


Seven-year-old Renique Harris of Kingston may never walk in her lifetime.

But, standing in a frame that locks her knees, while her little feet meet the ground is enough hope for her mom, Nicola Gordon.

Renique was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects the brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking.

Unable to work because of her daughter's debilitating condition, Ms Gordon treks from as far as Kingston to Westmoreland looking for hope at the Riu Resorts multimillion-dollar-sponsored Paediatric Orthotic Clinic, which opened its doors three years ago.

"There are lots of benefits to get these kids standing; once they are standing in a frame, it's very important," says visiting orthotic specialist Dawn Turner of London, Ontario.

Turner added: "It's important for any injury. It improves circulation, improves bone growth, as the bones are known to grow stronger if there is pressure put on them."

Born with 'club foot'

After completing her session with Renique, Turner turned her attention to another seven-year-old - Jeremiah Campbell, who walks. He is an A-student with immense self-confidence, but suffers from a condition called 'club foot', which he was born with, as well as a hyper-suspended leg.

"He had a situation where he was unable to walk properly, but with the orthotic shoes that he wears, it keeps his feet in place and he is able to walk much longer and farther," said Yvonne Nembhard Campbell, Jeremiah's mother.

Jeremiah became a patient of the clinic two years ago, and today Nembhard Campbell revels in the fact that her son's "right foot is doing great". His only challenge, she says, now is the left leg which fluctuates.

For the children who visit the Paediatric Orthotic Clinic, they will likely be treated by Turner, who alternates four times per year with Grant Myer of Minnesota, United States - the man whose brainchild it was to start the facility.

Turner pays her own airfare from Canada to Jamaica, brings boxes of braces which she gets from her patients and stays for free in a suite at Riu Tropical Palace, just so she can give back to Jamaica's children.

Riu has committed to $13 million over five years, which takes care of the rent and administrative expenses, explained the resort's director of sales, Angella Bennett.

According to Bennett, to date the clinic has treated 60 children.