Jodie-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
It has been four challenging years for Ashley Anderson and her family ever since she was shot in the head during crossfire on her way from school in 2008.
Despite the difficulties, the family was yesterday filled with joy and excitement ahead of her 12th birthday today.
Ashley's mother, 31-year-old Kadian McIntosh, described her daughter as a survivor, explaining that she had improved immensely since the incident that left her confined to a wheelchair.
"I really want to make her birthday special, so I'll probably take her out for ice cream because she loves her ice cream. Or I might take her to the park - or something," McIntosh told The Gleaner yesterday.
Ashley's mother's doting was a reminder of comments made last month by Holy Family Primary School principal, Cecile Palmer.
After the 2008 shooting, Ashley had to drop out of Holy Family, but on June 27, Palmer made her an honorary graduate of the institution.
During the ceremony, the principal commended McIntosh for taking excellent care of her daughter.
Yesterday, McIntosh recalled how her daughter was unable to move her head, cough, or feel anything after she was shot.
"But with the help of a therapist, she is able to move her head now, and any little sound she hear, she react to it. She has come a far way and I'm not giving up because we still have to show her love," she said.
McIntosh said the journey since the incident has been back-breaking, but she was determined to give her child the best care possible.
"My greatest wish is for her to talk so that she can tell me what is wrong because sometimes she cries and we have to be figuring out what the problem is, and sometimes I start to fret because I can't pinpoint the problem, and I don't want it to be anything serious happening to her," she said.
"I'm a mother of three and her father is not around. Sometimes I have to be struggling with her bigger sister because she took the incident so hard. Sometimes she runs away for all two days and we don't see her, so I have to worry about her and take care of her (Ashley) at the same time."
McIntosh further explained that the situation has prevented her from getting a job, which has posed serious challenges for her as a single parent.
Despite everything, she told The Gleaner she has forgiven the gunmen who hurt her daughter.
"My heart is clean. I have nothing against them because that can't help Ashley. I just want them to look into themselves and realise that when dem hurt especially children, they hurting the future. And parents love your children. Take time to understand them and give them the best possible care," she advised.