Gravely ill seven-year-old Raneiya Jemmott has to wait one month for an interview at the United States Embassy before she can get advanced treatment in the United States (US).
However, Raneiya’s relatives are now hoping and praying that a space becomes available before the scheduled June 12 date, because she needs to seek medical attention oversees urgently, since doctors here say there is nothing more they can do for her.
The child’s mother Marcia Armstrong, told Barbados TODAY during an interview at their Berbice Road #1 Fitts Village, St James, home, that doctors have informed her that Raneiya who almost died from the heart condition in January, may not be “able to travel if she has another relapse”.
“Right now Raneiya has a serious heart condition and they are saying that she basically needs a heart, and there is nothing more therefore that they can do for her. But now that she is in a stable condition, we are looking to have a second opinion in the States.
“But basically her visa appointment is in June. I would really like it to be pushed forward to a closer date for her, because right now if anything happens, she won’t be able to fly. So I would like to get the visa so she can fly as soon as possible,” Armstrong said.
Raneiya’s family was thrown into a state of sadness when she was diagnosed with Restrictive Cardiomyopathy (RCM) in September last year when she was six-years-old.
In restrictive cardiomyopathy, the heart’s ventricles become stiff, which restricts their contraction. It affects how the ventricles fill with blood, and reduces the blood circulation through the heart and to the body.
RCM is relatively rare compared to other types of cardiomyopathy. It is most often diagnosed in children, between 5 to 6 years of age, although it could be developed at any age.
Raneiya’s uncle Elbert Ellis who has been keeping himself informed about her condition since she has been diagnosed, remaining in contact with her doctors, said it is a matter of urgency that his niece has access to medical care oversees if she is to be given a chance
Ellis too confirmed that doctors have done as much for the child as they can do for her here. He said the family was made aware that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital does not have the up-to-date equipment required to treat Raneiya’s condition.
“It is best that she seeks medical attention in Canada, or the United States, or in England. So we are in the process of trying to get here to travel to the United States to a children’s hospital where she can get a second or even a third opinion to confirm the diagnosis, and then the follow up treatment that will be required to improve her health,” Ellis said.
The uncle noted that he too was hoping that Raneiya does not relapse and have to be hospitalized before she can travel.
“The last time she was in hospital for an extended period. Even if we would have wanted for her to travel, it would have been impossible, because of the condition she was in. She is stable at the moment, and she has been stable now for a little while now. But the date has been given for June, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that she remains stable for that time,” he added.
Ellis said he knows that not being able to attend her Luther Thorne Memorial Primary School has been difficult for Raneiya, whom he described as a very vibrant girl who excelled in her work.
Raneiya has not been to school since September because it had become difficult for her to climb stairs even before she was diagnosed.
“She is very keen to get the attention and the advanced medical care to see how she can improve and really get on with her life which really is at a standstill right now. She has lost a lot of weight; the medication has been very tough on her body.
“So everybody is very keen to move ahead. All the family is in full support. She has relatives in the states who are willing to assist when she gets there. It is just a matter of getting the visa sorted out, getting to the hospital and getting the care that she needs,” Ellis said.
With tears in her eye, the 27-year-old Armstrong said she knew something was wrong when the child started losing weight and experiencing chest pains, amongst other symptoms.
Armstrong noted that Raneiya was initially diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)-a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased because the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged and weakened.
The mother said she was hospitalized, treated for DCM, started to feel better and was able to go home.
“One evening she came home from school and was complaining that her chest was hurting really bad, so we took her back to the hospital and they started giving her medication for pains and stuff like that, but she was still complaining for her chest. So the doctor say that maybe she was having a heart attack,” Armstrong recalled.
Raneiya’s condition worsened, and on January 21, she took a turn for the worse.
She was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for quite some time. There were times she went so low that doctors thought she would have died.
“It was looking bad. They didn’t think that she was going to make it. She had tubes down her throat to help her breathe. They were saying she wouldn’t make it, but I was trying to keep it together. She started getting infections,” Armstrong recalled.
The mother said she is continuing to pray for a breakthrough in Raneiya getting a visa as soon as possible, and is trying her best to keep her comfortable and happy.
“Her dad and I spend a lot of time with her. She is his first and only child, and she is my first and only child. This is hard on both of us. We have our relatives supporting us and we are thankful for that”.
Recently, the Precious Touch Foundation treated Raneiya like a princess through granting her wish of a Elsa doll and a party with she enjoyed with her family and friends.