Eighteen-year-old Justina Sobers eats ice cream every day! And it is not because she wants to; she is forced to.
Justina cannot eat solid foods. And the fat in the ice cream, along with other dietary supplements, helps to sustain her body, which has been losing weight rapidly as a result of a rare disorder she was diagnosed with last year.
Yesterday, during an interview with Barbados TODAY at her Edey Village, Christ Church home, Justina, who has been in severe pain in recent months, appealed to the public for any monetary contribution towards the cost of surgery she desperately needs to remove a lump from her neck, caused by her existing health condition.
“I really want help. I am feeling depressed, especially if someone eats in front of me and has solid foods; because I can’t have any.
“I am weak, because nothing is staying down,” said the former Frederick Smith Secondary student who ironically aspires to be a chef.
Justina was diagnosed with achalasia, a rare disorder that affects the ability of the oesophagus to move food into the stomach, and of swallowing. If left untreated patients eventually develop lung cancer.
The surgery this teenager is seeking will cost about $30, 000, and would be performed by Dr Philip Sahle Griffith, on private admission to the BayView Medical Centre.
Justina’s mother Krissita Bovell is also lending her voice to the plea for donations, as she is just as desperate in seeing her daughter out of such pain and discomfort.
She said that, as a mum, it was not easy to watch her child struggling to breathe at times, suffering chest pains, muscle spasms, headaches and an overall weakness that accompanied the disorder.
“I don’t really sleep any more, because I am up waiting to hear her cough, and making sure she’s breathing.
Bovell, who also has a younger child, explained that Justina’s ordeal began last October when a lump appeared on her neck.
“She wasn’t swallowing and she kept choking all the time. Then the lump came up and every time she tried to eat something solid she would be hitting her chest and choking.
“When she tried to sleep at nights, I could stay in another room a good distance from her and hear her breathing like how an asthmatic would breathe, because the disease builds mucus,” the mother detailed, as her hoarse daughter sat beside her coughing uncontrollably.
The 36-year-old mother, who works in the marketing industry, says her financial status won’t allow her to pay for the surgery. And so in an effort to raise the funds, she has been sending letters to businesses asking for contributions. The family has even created a Facebook page –– Justina Sobers Fighting Achalasia. But these efforts have not been successful.
And the surgery, scheduled for tomorrow, March 25, has had to be postponed for lack of the necessary funds.
“The surgeries are usually successful,” said Justina’s mother, but there is a chance the teen may yet need additional surgery.
The surgeon said that after the surgery Justina might not be able to eat for three to six months as she went on the mend. She would have to remain on her no-solid food diet, the mother divulged.
Persons interested in making a donation towards the cost of Justina’s surgery may do so through an account opened in her name at Republic Bank –– No. 052906511001.