By Garth A. Rattray
I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Dr Heather Little-White. Indeed, I should offer my condolences to the entire country. Dr Little-White's dedication to nutrition, education (at all levels, up to and including tertiary education), journalism and advocacy made her a Jamaican icon.
Her uncommon and inspiring bravery in the face of the devastating physical and psychological effects of crime and personal injury was an inspiration to us all. On July 6, 1999, she was shot during a car-jacking crime and left paralysed from her chest down. Physically impaired but mentally emboldened, her inner light shone even brighter than before and expanded the boundaries of her contribution to society.
Lamenting passionately on our country's inability to break the back of crime, she said, "It is frustrating, but I still believe in my country". Her life was also affected by crime in 2008 and 2010. Yet, she is quoted as emailing, "Please be careful as the monster of crime has overrun most of the good we have come to know about Jamaica. Through prayer and right action we have to claim back our country. I will be starting a campaign for that ..."
FUNDING FOR DISABLED VICTIMS
In 2000, she lobbied for the government to organise funding for the disabled victims of crime. This is also one of my major pet peeves. Even I, a family practitioner, have seen numerous badly injured innocent victims of violent crime who, because of financial problems and/or poverty, are unable to maintain any semblance of the life that they had before being attacked by criminals.
In my column of April 21, 2008, I explained that newscasts often tell of people who were "shot and injured" and we breathe a collective sigh of relief, designate them as fortunate and say a silent prayer of thanksgiving that their lives were spared.
However, some of those survivors are left in dire straits. To quote from that article, "Many of our fellow Jamaicans who have been shot and injured are suffering psychologically, physically and financially. Some have lost brain tissue, eyes, teeth, body parts (bowel, kidneys, digits, arms, legs) or mobility (due to paralysis). Some must live with colostomy bags and/or urine tubes. The monsters who have maimed and/or incapacitated them have condemned them to a miserable existence..."
Theirs is a tale of woe and abandonment by a society that spawned the evil that wronged them. Caretakers often cannot cope with the financial, physical and psychological burden.
Crime is a social disease with deep roots and many causes. It is multi-systemic and therefore also a syndrome that manifests throughout society. The police are mostly trained for intervention. Although they try to prevent crime, that is something that ought to be undertaken by the wider society. We need far more prevention and we need to institute aftercare and rehabilitation for those unfortunate souls badly affected by this scourge.
Quoting again from the article of April, 2008 ..." People who have been shot and injured (or stabbed, or beaten) should be part of a government-sponsored social-relief and health-care plan. Some need basic financial support along with psychological care, medications, rehabilitative services, home care, prosthesis, ambulatory devices".
It is a shame that we are unlikely to fully acknowledge the life and effort of the great ones among us until they have transitioned. I encourage the powers that be to honour Dr Heather Little-White by setting up a foundation in her name to see to the needs of the injured victims of violent crime. It could be managed by the government and partially funded with tax-relief contributions from local and international charities and benefactors.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org