From the time seven-year-old Ephraim Collins was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at two months old, his life has been a series of grave predictions from healthcare professionals who said that nothing could be done for him.
Hydrocephalus, also referred to as ‘water on the brain,’ is a swelling of the head caused by a buildup of fluid. Ephraim’s has grown to 88 cm and although he cannot walk, he is able to feed himself and has been speaking since he uttered his first word at 8 months old.
Despite the position of neurosurgeons who assessed Ephraim’s case, however, his parents did not give up hope, and a chance encounter with a stranger last December may have been the pivot that motioned a turn of events; an encounter Ephraim’s mother likens to a fairytale occurrence.
It was on that day in December that a woman approached Ephraim’s father, Otto Collins, as he crossed the bridge connecting the section of the Bourda Market where his wife Carlene’s salon is located, to Church Street, cradling Ephraim in his arms.
The stranger, quite taken with the child, asked if the family was receiving help and requested their contact information. The woman was not seen or heard from again but help did come the next day.
”…I don’t know where this woman disappeared. I don’t know if it’s just a fairy godmother or what, but if I am to see this woman again I don’t know her,” Carlene said.
“The very next day we were in town doing some Christmas shopping and I get a call. I heard this woman with this deep English accent. She asked me, ‘Are you Mrs Collins? I’m here at your place of work.’ When I came, she said, ‘I’m Jessica Hatfield, a friend gave me this number and asked me to check you out.’”
According to Carlene, Jessica has not lost momentum since she took up Ephraim’s case. Not even after being advised by a neurosurgeon that the case may be a hopeless one.
“She said, ‘Carlene, I spoke with a neurosurgeon…the neurosurgeon said that there’s nothing that can be done.’ She said, ‘I’m very sorry, I’m really here to help you but we’re not getting through with anything.’ So right away I said to her, ‘That’s okay. But my faith is still high in God because I know the seventh year is the seventh year of completion and God is going to come through in the seventh year, something is going to be done this year.’”
And so although it was in December that Carlene met Jessica Hatfield, it was approximately seven months later that the Collinses, through Hatfield, would become acquainted with Andrew and Linda Bernard.
The Bernards, who reside in the United Kingdom, came to Guyana in July to attend a court hearing following their son’s untimely death. They were taken by Jessica to Carlene’s place of business, where they met Ephraim and spent the day with the family.
Linda, in a telephone interview, explained that they were deeply moved by Ephraim’s condition, and she knew that had he been living elsewhere he would be able to get the help he so desperately needs.
The woman said it was not until she returned home that she really started thinking about what she could do for Ephraim. And so today, roughly three months after the two families would have met, Linda will cut her hair off to raise money to fund Ephraim’s surgery.
“Having lost my son there’s not very much I feel I can do… I’ve never done something like this before, I’ve never met an Ephraim before. I wouldn’t have met Ephraim if it wasn’t for my son’s death,” Linda said, adding, “I can do this… This is something we can do… Some sunshine has come out of my son’s death.”
Linda related that she will be cutting off her ponytail, which she has worn for about 35 years and donate the hair to a cancer charity that makes wigs. She is unsure how much money she will be able to make from this single venture but the overall target of the Collins’ family is $17 million.
Jessica’s drive had allowed her to solicit the help of neurosurgeon Dr Juan Martinez, who has agreed to operate on Ephraim without cost at a health facility located in Malaga, Spain. However, money still needs to be raised to cover other costs. The funds being raised are to assist with, among other things, a medivac, the medical team on board and accommodations.
To make a donation to fund Ephraim’s travel to Spain, contact can be made with Carlene at 683-3305. Donations can also be made through their crowdfunding account, which can be accessed at https://www.youcaring.com/ephriam-collins-632656.