Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 3rd 2014 Contents BOBIE-LEE DIXON
All she wanted was a healthy baby, but
when Geanna Cunningham gave birth to her
first and only child Zephiniah Hessic three
years ago, a difficult delivery left her baby
boy with brain damage. He was later diag-
nosed with ataxic cerebral palsy.
"It was really a prolonged labour and when
he was delivered he was not breathing and the
doctor had to resuscitate him," said Cunning-
It was not until Hessic was six-months-old
that she realised something was wrong with
"He was not sitting up for himself nor was
he reaching for things like a six-month-old
usually does," Cunningham said.
A worried Hessic took Zephiniah to a public
hospital and was told her son had cerebral
palsy. Not satisfied with the diagnosis she
sought a second opinion privately but the cere-
bral palsy diagnosis was confirmed.
"I really did not even know what to do. I
was so confused," said the single mother.
Cunningham began to research as much as
she could on the disability and how one should
care for a child with cerebral palsy. Realising
it was a full-time job and at most times a
mother is the only one who has the patience
to tend to her child suffering with the disorder,
she quit her job as a cook and has since been
Zephiniah's sole caretaker.
"It is really hard, although I have some sup-
port from my mother, it's not all the time she
could assist me in looking after him," said Cun-
ningham who lives in Diego Martin.
She said sorrowfully, "Sometimes I break
down because it is non-stop running with him.
Anything I find out that can help him, whether
it is a programme, support group or otherwise,
I make myself present, but I get so tired some-
times," she lamented.
Cunningham receives a disability grant from
the Government of $850, but it is nowhere
enough to cover the expenses of a child with
such a disorder.
She said when the going gets really tough,
she prays for a miracle for her son.
"I wish I could wake up one morning and
see him normal. God knows I would give any-
thing to see this," she said.
She finds some solace at times in other
mothers who are also caring for children with
the disability. But that support group set up
by the Cerebral Palsy Society of T&T is also
facing many challenges as it does not have a
fixed location where mothers can meet, sit and
discuss the way forward.
"The president is trying her best to find a
permanent place for us, but it has not been
easy," said Cunningham.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, June 3, 2014
The Ile Eko Sango Osun Mil Osa
(IESOM) will host its Market Place Fes-
tival on Labour Day, June 19, at its
Shrine Gardens facility on Upper Gas-
parillo Road, Santa Cruz.
The Market Place, which has become
an annual feature of the Rain Festival,
will this year be held as a separate entity
focusing on the "odu" (scripture or verse
of scripture) of the festival, Oyeku Osa
This odu talks about conflict such as
in partnerships or business and suggests
compromise to avoid total loss. This part-
nership and relationship is not limited
to the market day, but reflect the ongoing
challenges of life and the way people deal
A spokesperson explained to the T&T
Guardian: "If we do not make the nec-
essary sacrifices then that conflict will
bedevil us throughout our lives, and it
will be difficult for us to accomplish inner
peace and harmony.
"As such, in celebrating the market
place, the market day has been planned
to add value to varying products to be
bought and sold. The emphasis therefore
will be on sell, buy, barter."
On the market day items such as
jewelry, herbs and herbal products, art
and craft, plants and seedlings, African
clothing, drums and much more will be
The festival will also give visitors an
opportunity to purchase spiritual supplies,
engage in divinations as well as participate
in storytelling and other entertainment
provided for the day.
Introductory workshops and exchange
of ideas and services will also be fea-
The Market Day Festival starts at 10
am and will conclude at 10 pm.
Festival set for
Contact the IESOM Shrine at 685-1954 or
A cry for help
Cunningham is currently preoccupied with
finding the money to enrol her son in the up-
coming July/August vacation camp hosted by
Shay's Foundation for Conductive Education.
The foundation was started two years ago by
Ann Marie McIntosh who lost her only child to
complications associated with cerebral palsy.
It offers a parent and child group programme
annually, which focuses on caring for the child,
coping skills for mothers or caretakers and
strategic learning and special education for chil-
dren, among other activities. But Cunningham is
finding it difficult to raise the $7,000 needed by
"It may seem like little money to some, but
when you are not working, you are lucky to
come by a $20 dollar bill, if so much. I have really
been trying to raise the money. I have even writ-
ten the Prime Minister and the councillor for my
area, Diego Martin North, but to date I have had
no response from either office," explained Cun-
She said coming to the T&T Guardian to share
her story was her last hope of getting some kind
"I know people may not understand com-
pletely how difficult having a child with any kind
of disability could be for a parent unless they
themselves are faced with the situation. But it
takes a lot of money to look after them because
they always require special treatment that most
times do not come free," said Cunningham.
She is appealing with the public to help her
raise the money for her son to participate in the
"I am appealing to the public to help me raise
the funds for my son who is in great need. I just
want him to have if not a normal life, something
close to it," said Cunningham.
People wishing to assist three-year-old Zephiniah Hessic, can make contributions via Royal Bank to
account number 100019172662889. Ensure when making the deposit you state the contribution is for
Zephiniah Hessic and keep your deposit slip, as this account number is the general account number for
Shay's Foundation of Conductive Education. Contact can also be made to Cunningham on 702-0554.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects
muscle tone, movement and motor skills (the
ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful
way). CP is usually caused by brain damage
that occurs before or during a child's birth, or
during the first three to five years of a child's
life.The brain damage that leads to cerebral
palsy can also lead to other health issues, in-
cluding vision, hearing, and speech problems,
and learning disabilities.
There is no cure for CP, but treatment, ther-
apy, special equipment, and, in some cases,
surgery can help a child who is living with the
The exact causes of most cases of CP are
unknown, but many are the result of problems
during pregnancy in which the brain is either
damaged or doesn't develop normally. This can
be due to infections, maternal health problems,
a genetic disorder, or something else that in-
terferes with normal brain development. Prob-
lems during labour and delivery can cause CP
in some cases. but this is the exception.
The three types of CP are:
spastic cerebral palsy---causes stiffness and
athetoid cerebral palsy---leads to involuntary
and uncontrolled movements
ataxic cerebral palsy---causes a disturbed
sense of balance and depth perception
Mother seeks help for
son with cerebral palsy
Geanna Cunningham with her three-year-old
son Zephiniah Hessic.
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