Friday, 26 August 2022 18:59

Mother says she missed signs daughter was ill; help on the way for young lupus patient

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Townhead District, Westmoreland — Tashana Ferguson is wracked with guilt, beating herself up for failing to notice that her teenage daughter was seriously ill. Davieka Briyona Clarke, who turns 15 on Saturday, has lupus. She was diagnosed with the disease earlier this year after being ill for more than two years.

"I blame myself. Because of my job I didn't realise she was that sick until it was kind of late. At first when I brought her to the hospital they said it seems like she had a kidney problem. They were treating her for her kidney problem and she was there still being sick," said Ferguson.

"I [was] not noticing because when I go to work in the morning she isn't up as yet, and when I come home I just ensure she get a proper meal to go to her bed, then me gone to sleep — so I didn't notice because of my job. Then I forgot something one morning and when I came in the house and I saw her I said, 'Why you look like this?' Immediately I called my work and I said, 'I cannot come in this morning,' " she said.

Her daughter was admitted to the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital that day, then transferred to the Cornwall Regional Hospital a few hours later. Initially, the medical teams were baffled by the young girl's illness.

"She was in and out of the hospital doing tests," Ferguson said. "Tests being taken overseas and tests being done here at the Microlab and at the hospital, and they still didn't see what was wrong with her. They said the blood was throwing them off. It was giving a reading but they could not pick up what it was. Lupus was confirmed in the last tests that she did before the diagnosis."

Davieka, who has lost more 100 pounds since becoming ill, also suffers from alopecia, skin rashes, joint pain, memory loss and other symptoms. She constantly asks if her hair will grow back, and if she will regain the weight she once had, her mother said. She has not attended school physically or online for two years and misses her friends at Savanna-la-Mar High and Preparatory School.

Her mother is hoping she will be able to resume her studies soon.

"Before, she was unable to go to school or do any assignments; she could not sit up," she said. "But since she started taking the medications I seeing where she is now able to sit up."

The school has offered to cover the cost of tuition once the teenager is strong enough to return.

That is welcome news as the family has racked up a huge hospital bill — and it keeps growing. The teenager now relies on 13 different tablets each month, which cost approximately $35,000.


"I have two loans backed up right now because of her sickness," Ferguson lamented.

She is a security officer and her employer has given her time off to make numerous trips to the hospital, she said, but each day away from work means loss of income. Some family members help when they can but it is still not enough as she also has two younger children, she explained.

Friends and relatives have planned a cookout to raise funds to help the family. It will be on the teenager's 15th birthday, on Saturday. There will be various meals on sale during the event which will be held in the young girl's hometown, Townhead District. Dubbed Love for Briyona, the party is being hosted by Councillor Kevin Murray (Friendship Division, Jamaica Labour Party), in partnership with the Townhead Community Development Committee.

Members of the community have offered to contribute their time, money or other resources to the cause.

"Persons can contact her mother or myself to support," Councillor Murray told the Observer. "The support can be monetary or items that will be required for the fund-raiser. Commitment by words has been given and we are hoping these will materialise. A committee is in place and we have issued quite a few tickets so far. We are in the process of trying to get some items donated to lessen the expenses."

He said after one of his colleagues alerted him to the family's situation, he felt compelled to help.

"When I visited the home I saw the pain the mother was in and realised that she needed the help, and I decided to assist," said Murray.

Ferguson knows how much it helps to have others there for her and her family, both financially and emotionally. Since neighbours have come to their aid, the emotional struggle has been a bit easier to bear.

"They are the ones who really calm me down, you know, because I use to be very emotional," she said. "The moment I start speaking of her I just start cry, I just break down. Since they start coming around checking on both of us, that's when things change."

She is looking forward to the entire community coming out on Saturday.

Last modified on Friday, 26 August 2022 19:12