Heart twice broken: Ailing man seeks help
What started out as a routine day for Elf McDonald, planting in his backyard garden, two years ago, has continued into months of agony and despair.
The 58-year-old, who suffers from heart disease, not only battles with the challenges of caring for himself, but is also mourning the death of his partner, who passed away on Christmas Day 2020 from a deteriorating heart and kidney condition.
McDonald, who had valve-replacement surgery in December 2019 said that he had no known complications prior to his first experience in the field, and life as he knew it has now changed.
“I was at home planting my little home garden, and I went out in the ground, and when I was out there, I feel like my chest hurting me. But I never took it serious. I was saying it was gas pain.”
He said the pain became unbearable, and upon the advice of his mother, who lives next door, he sought medical help.
“… When I went to the hospital, they admitted me. They did an X-ray, and they told me they saw an infection around the heart. They were now treating me for infection, but it was actually worse than that. After two days, I was discharged. But after the medication ran out, the pain came back worse,” he told The Gleaner.
Following a CT scan, McDonald said it was then that he found out that his heart valve was on the brink of rupturing and needed to be replaced.
However, months after having surgery and growing accustomed to the new normal, his partner, and main support system of four years, left this Earth.
“She had kidney and heart problem and was admitted in the Mandeville Hospital on Wednesday. She was transferred to Kingston the Thursday, and by Friday morning, Christmas Day, she died,” McDonald lamented.
He said that it wasn’t until she died that he realised how sick she was as she seemed to have intentionally hid the seriousness of her illness from him.
“She did a surgery before we met, but she didn’t tell me everything. I only knew about the heart clinic, but she didn’t tell me that doctors had referred her to the kidney clinic. By the time I found out, it was too late. I am just trying to cope as the days go by.”
Not only is McDonald burdened by grief, but he continues to battle daily with the financial challenges of maintaining his heart health.
While he is able to get approximately three of the five medications he is currently on from the government clinic, McDonald said he has had to sometimes do without those he has to purchase due to a lack of funding.
“So far, it’s the assistance from a few friends and church members that have kept me. One of the medication for the heart costs about $5,000, and the cheapest cost about $3,800, but sometimes I can’t find that. Presently, I have a test to do that I was supposed to do from November, but I haven’t done it because I can’t afford it. It cost about $12,000.”
A mason by trade, McDonald said that according to his doctors, he will never be able to work in that field again due to the rigours of the job and fears he won’t be able to be as independent as he would like.
“That was the only work I know. I do a little farming, but that is just enough for me to eat. There is not much I can do. I feel my heart racing very fast when I do anything too difficult, but I have to do what I can to eat.”
“Every so often I feel the pain in the area, I guess because it hasn’t been healed properly. I would really need some assistance with my medical bills to buy medication and travelling into Kingston to see the doctor each time,” he pleaded.
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