Local doctor, US firm get life saving gift to ailing St Elizabeth mother
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Karlene Brown has been given a rather unusual gift this Christmas, but the heart-warming present is one that she will treasure for the rest of her life.
In fact, it is the gift of a cardioverter-defibrillator that has given the 52-year-old mother of four a new lease on life.
Without it, Brown knows that she might not have witnessed another Christmas season where the gift of life is celebrated.
Her new defilbrillator intact, Brown, accompanied by her 15-year-old daughter, shared her good news with The Sunday Gleaner last week as she looked forward to the season in a merry mood.
According to Brown, she received the life-saving present from a company in the United States called Medtronics.
But it was a good Samaritan in Jamaica who saw her plight and rushed to assist, which actually brought her situation to the attention of the professionals at Medtronics.
Brown had gone to Dr William Foster, a Jamaican cardiologist, for treatment and he played the role of 'Santa' and rallied the forces of generosity.
Foster said Brown emerged on his horizon, after her brother had consulted him to have a heart surgery done on him overseas.
Sadly, the doctor's effort was too late to save Karlene's severely ailing brother, as his weak heart yielded to the merciless pressures to which it was exposed.
"Before I could get him to have heart surgery, he died," said Foster.
It was after Karlene's brother died that her situation came to Foster's attention.
He determined that he had to act fast to prevent a second tragedy hitting the family.
"When I heard about his sister, I was not going to let it happen a second time," Foster asserted.
He said he immediately travelled to Black River, St Elizabeth. "I went and saw her and the situation, and there was not much hope on her horizon," he said. "It would cost her US$20,000 then and now, but we got it donated for her."
An implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) is a small electronic device installed inside the chest to prevent sudden death from cardiac arrest due to life-threatening abnormally fast heart rhythms (tachycardias).
The ICD is capable of monitoring the heart rhythm. When the heart is beating normally, the device remains inactive.
If the heart makes a life-threatening move, the ICD delivers an electrical 'shock(s)' to terminate the abnormal rhythm and return the heart rhythm to normal.
Foster said it was the second time that Medtronics, a company that deals with medical hardware, has come to rescue of a Jamaican.
Brown, ever smiling, seized the moment to express appreciation.
"I would like to say a big thank you to Medtronics, Dr Foster and my sister Cynthia Cowell for the kind effort that they have extended, so that I can live a normal life once again," said a beaming Brown.
"I got the defibrillator free of cost from Medtronics because there is no way that I could afford it," she added.
The heart patient, who has to travel weekly into Kingston from the Appleton sugar belt of Thornton district in St Elizabeth, shared how she had been wrestling with a 'heart block' since 2007.
"The arteries in the two valves are blocked and blood cannot circulate through the body," Brown explained.
"It caused severe chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness and blackouts," she added. "But since I put in the cardioverter-defibrillator on the 2nd of December, I have been feeling well."
In and out of hospital
So frightful it has been that Brown, who has been in and out of the Black River Hospital over the past seven years, was transferred on three occasions from St Elizabeth to the University Hospital of the West Indies.
Brown was with her 15-year-old daughter Martina, the last of four children, when she visited Foster for her weekly check-up in the aftermath of the placement of the defibrillator.
She made no bones that she is proud of Martina, a grade 10 student of Maggotty High School, the only of her four children still in school.
"I am really interested in seeing her past the worst, it's all about her and her welfare right now."
Martina, exuding courtesy and politeness, explained that she will be sitting nine subjects in CSEC when she gets to grade 11, and if the school reports are anything to go by, the seemingly courteous child is well on track.
With this in mind and feeling better, Brown confided that she is seeking ways to raise chickens to sell in order to assist her daughter in school.
With certificates of commendation and participation in abundance, along with the impressive school reports on display, Brown boasted that Martina has a big heart and is multifaceted, to boot.
Martina has received an award for her prowess in English language, and acknowledged for her role in the St Elizabeth Parish Achievement Day.