Jamaican Student Receives Gift of Sight


Nineteen-year-old Jamaican student, Tamika Peart is looking to the New Year with bright, new eyes, thanks to the support for her family, Canadian eye doctors and some kind Jamaicans living in Toronto.
Tamika, who suffered from Kerataconus, a deformity of the cornea that causes severe vision defect leading to blindness, received two corneal transplants at the Toronto Eye Surgery Centre last year to treat the condition. The most recent transplant was performed in December.
The 19-year-old, who is in Canada recovering from her surgeries, thanks each financial donor for giving her the gift of sight. “I didn’t expect this at all. I am really thankful that people, who don’t know me, have gone this far for me,” she tells JIS News.
Tamika’s battle with Kerataconus began in 2001, when doctors in Jamaica diagnosed the rare condition in her right eye. Over the years, the eye progressively deteriorated until eyeglasses were no longer of any use. Tamika was slowly going blind and the only thing that could be done was a corneal transplant, where the cornea of the eye is removed and replaced with a donor cornea.
“I was attending pre-university as a first year student,” she recalls. “Due to the adverse state of the Kerataconus, I was unable to decipher things that were written on the board or to read from a computer monitor. So, with the greatest of regret, I had to dismiss myself from the programme. I was sitting at home for 16 months unable to do anything and being very depressed, until my aunts decided to invite me to Canada on a medical visa,” Tamika tells JIS News.
Her family, including her aunt Karlene Haughton, a Canadian resident, was able to raise the C$6,000 that was needed for the surgery and Tamika went to Canada in June 2007.
At the first consultation with doctors at the Toronto Eye Surgery Centre, Tamika received the crushing news that the Kerataconus had also affected the left eye and a corneal transplant was also needed for that eye.Though devastated by the news, she remained optimistic about her condition and pushed ahead with the surgery on the right eye.
With the first surgery successful, another C$6,000 was needed to operate on the second eye. Even though the family raised some of the money and the surgeon waived a part of his fees, there was still an outstanding balance of C$3,400. Tamika and her family appealed to Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto, Anne-Marie Bonner, who sent out an SOS to members of the Jamaican community in Toronto. Through the generous donation of several individuals and organizations, the money was raised for Tamika to undergo the second corneal transplant in December.
Those who contributed included the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA); the Canadian Friends of St. Thomas Healthcare Organization (CFSTHO); Ron and Lorna King; Maud Fuller, President of the University of the West Indies Alumni Association; Jamaican Ex-Soldiers Association and Ms. Bonner.
President of the JCA, Sandra Carnegie-Douglas, says her organization was very pleased to support the worthy cause and wishes Tamika all the best for the future.
Chairman of the CFSTHO, Dan Williamson, praises the Consul General for bringing the groups together for the cause.
Tamika, in the meantime, has received a six-month extension on her visa from the Canadian government. According to her aunt, the doctors are very impressed with her recovery rate and have indicated that she is about a year ahead of normal recovery.
Tamika says her greatest desire is to return to her pre-university studies on the Mona campus.
“I intend to go back to Jamaica and back to school. I will have to start over but I don’t mind,” she tells JIS News.

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