It is too late for actions that could have prolonged or saved the life of Beyoncé Ross. No wishes or prayers and no outrage or sorrow can change the reality of the casket or coffin made of fine wood, the white dress and flowers, the hymns and sermons about the afterlife, and the cries of relatives and friends wishing to see her on that cycle riding for gold again. Though I did not know the teen and only became aware of her plight a couple of weeks ago, I cannot help but feel a sense of culpability. I feel culpability because too long we have been a people who are quick to react rather than quick to stand and demand the changes we need. We like to chant “we are the change” in times of campaigns and marches, yet we continue to allow party loyalty, nepotism and race to divide and impede us.
I will shout progress when there are no more deaths because our healthcare system is deficient. I will shout progress when our education system caters to the needs of all children. I will shout progress when we are truly unified as a people. I will shout progress when every Guyanese can afford to live.
Poverty is death. Poverty is violence. Poverty will creep into places of comfort and joy to trample every chance for peace of mind. Poverty will snigger at one’s desperation and mock one’s struggles to remain sane. Often, I am confronted by the desperate faces of men, women and children and it is easier to ignore their condition because it is too difficult to face human suffering and carry on like all is well.
It is too late to believe in miracles, like the ones recorded in some religious texts about prophets who walked the earth and laid hands, and the paralysed walking and men rising from the dead. It is too late to believe in magic potions that make the sick well and life eternal.
The visit from Minister of Education Nicolette Henry and Minister of Social Cohesion Dr. George Norton could not shrink Ross’ tumour, could not wake her up after her seizure. My heart breaks for her family although my feelings are as insignificant as the common “RIPs” we too often utter while we sit and wait to become immersed in another Guyanese tragedy.
Like that of Sasia Adams, who died on Tuesday. It is alleged that her boyfriend pushed her from the car, while he has claimed she jumped. She died from blunt force trauma as reported in the news. How many more women have to die before we realise we are dealing with a gender-based violence crisis? How many more before we realise there has been great failure in raising some of our men? How many more before we realise that something is wrong with those who seek to justify the killing of our women with issues, like infidelity, as if that is ever a just reason to kill? Men and women are responsible for their choices and the failure of one relationship does not mean the end of life. Must we not think about our mothers, sisters and children before we utter nonsense? Must we women not think about our own lives? Again, most of us sit and wait to react rather than act to save the next life.
Beyoncé is not the first Guyanese to have died because they could not afford to travel overseas for medical care. I hope she is the last.
I think about the little girl, Mikelle Brutus, who I have often seen sitting under a tent in front of Republic Bank on Water Street, in Georgetown, with her relatives asking for donations to assist with her treatment. The first time I encountered her was in Alexander Street, Kitty, where her father was sharing her story and asking for help. That was sometime in 2016. She, like Ross, is said to have a brain tumour.
And a few weeks ago, a GoFundMe page was set up for Rene Stoby, a former sports journalist who has a mystery illness that has affected his speech and slowed down his mobility. To date, the GoFundMe page has raised just over US$5,000 with a goal of US$10,000.
In 2011, I was part of a group of filmmakers who produced eight Guyanese short films and later three more. He played a small role in one of those films.
Many have criticised the government for failing to help Ross to seek treatment overseas. Many have commented on the fact that ministers can fly abroad with ease when they need medical care. What does that say about our healthcare system when those who often boast about our progress do not use the services here or the services are just not available but unlike Ross, they have options? The poor continue to suffer and one of my favourite question these days is: Will oil fix that too? If so, when?
Beyoncé was a national athlete who could have been an Olympian, Minister Norton noted. It would have been beautiful to see her grow into the star she was on her way to becoming. She was 15-years-old, which is a time of transition from girlhood to womanhood. It is a time when one feels invincible as you are young and vibrant, with endless possibilities. It is a time when no one should die, especially because of the lack of funds.
Maybe IT IS TIME the government pursues setting up a fund that would assist Guyanese who cannot afford to travel overseas when they cannot be treated here. And if we must wait until the oil starts pumping in 2020 before we begin to fix the healthcare system, wait we must. But in the meantime, how many more will have to suffer and how many more will have to die? How many more will we watch go from vibrancy one day to a shell of who they used to be the next? No more, I hope.