Scores of citizens who were moved yesterday after reading of the plight of 600-pound Marissa Nelson in the T&T Guardian have offered to lend a helping hand.
Among those were DEHIX, an international charitable body; the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC); CEO of Pillars of Harmony; and members of the public.
Within hours of Nelson’s highlighting her battles with a condition known as lymphoedema, which has left her confined to a bed for the past four years at her Valencia home, help from as far as America started pouring in.
Her condition also generated a tsunami of sympathetic and disparaging comments on social media.
Nelson’s heart-wrenching story was published on the front page of Tuesday’s T&T Guardian, where she called on the Government to intervene and provide her with specialist medical care, urgent medication and a 24-hour caregiver.
Touched by the outpouring of support, Nelson thanked the Guardian yesterday for publishing her story. The story was also aired on sister station CNC3 and reached over 295,000 readers on Facebook and was shared 1,169 times by 4.30 pm.
Calling from Chicago was Trinidadian-born Dennis Hicks, founder of DEHIX, who said after reading Nelson’s touching story he felt compelled to intervene.
“My eyes became filled with tears. When I saw this lady’s photograph in the paper I became lost for words. Marissa is sitting on a bed and she really needs assistance.
“I am going to send Nelson some cash tomorrow,” 73-year-old Hicks said.
Asked if he could assist Nelson in getting gastric bypass overseas, Hicks said he did not see it as a problem.
“I am going to get in contact with all the hospitals I work with and explain her ailment and we are going to get it done. This is what I have been doing for years. We help needy and vulnerable people like Nelson. But first she has to lose some weight to make all this possible to travel abroad.”
Yesterday, Hicks contacted Nelson and he gave her the assurance that help was on the way.
To his shock, Hicks said, he found out that Nelson started doing on-line courses in human and social biology, maths and English three months ago.
“She says she needs a laptop which I will ship to her to help her with her studies. She wants to go back into nursing. I kept telling her that a new day has started and not to give up hope. I even offered her a job at DEHIX to motivate her and she was quite excited.”
Nelson said after she spoke to Hicks she felt as if a load was lifted off her shoulders.
“I was a bit angry this morning after reading on Facebook the comments of a few people which were very insensitive. But my spirits were lifted after my discussion with Mr Hicks. I am praying that things will work out. A lot of people called to offer their kind words and whatever little assistance they can. I am feeling so much better now. All is not lost.”
In 2008, Nelson who was diagnosed with the incurable disease was prescribed medication which had powerful steroids and within a short space of time she started to pack on the pounds.
By 2012, Nelson lost mobility in both legs, which are now covered in mammoth growths. These growths, the size of basketballs, sometimes erupt and ooze fluids.
Nelson has no one to attend to her needs. She lives alone and depends on the generosity of her neighbour and
68-year-old mother, Sylvia, who is
Although she receives $1,800 monthly disability grant and is a recipient of a $410 monthly food card, Nelson said the money was not enough to buy her pampers, bedliners, antiseptic soaps, 25 packs of baby wipes, bandages and gauze, which total about $5,000 monthly.
Gastric by-pass specialist
Dr Dilip Dan, who specialises in bariatric, laparoscopic and metabolic surgery, said Nelson can avail herself of medical attention at public hospitals.
There might be a problem getting gastric bypass done outside of T&T, Dan said, since Nelson would have difficulty getting and fitting in a plane.
Dan, who is regarded as the top expert in this field, said for Nelson to have gastric bypass she must be “medically able to tolerate surgery and the anaesthetic. Secondly, on a physical note whether the operating table will have the appropriate size to manage her condition.”
He said the hospitals’ beds also have a specific size and so too would the wheelchairs.
Dan said these were some of the issues Nelson would have to face.
“She will not be one of those patients who can have gastric bypass today and go home within 24 hours.”
In Nelson’s case, Dan said she would require after-surgery care, which was unpredictable.
For a person to have gastric bypass, Dan said the patient must be between 80 and 100 pounds over his or her ideal weight.
“Your ideal weight is determined by your height.”
Is there hope for Nelson?
Dan said there was always hope.
Healthy eating key
Karen Deonarine, CEO of Pillars of Harmony, which supports individuals living healthier lifestyles, said her heart went out to Nelson and she felt she had to render a helping hand.
“I will offer my services as a wellness coach to her right away. My mission is to go to Marissa and find out what she is eating and then I will put together a programme of proteins by using protein products.”
She plans to help Nelson with a team from her Port-of-Spain-based organisation.
Deonarine said Nelson would have to consume protein supplements along with small portions of healthy foods, while daily exercise will be required.
The supplement will be nutritional shakes which will be given twice daily to help her reduce the weight.
“What we would do is calculate Marissa’s calorie intake daily.”
Deonarine could not say how long the programme would last, stating that it was all up to Nelson’s determination and will-power.
“But I am willing to go the full distance with Marissa until she sees progress. She must have the strength of mind to do this. We have to build her confidence and self-esteem as well.”
Doctors willing to step in
Dr Andy Bhagwandass, Chief of Staff at the EWMSC, said the hospital was also willing to do an assessment of Nelson’s medical needs.
“Lymphoedema is an incurable disease. It is something you live with. But then her weight and so on needs to be addressed. She has to have medical care. I don’t think we would have a problem seeing the patient.”
Questioned if the hospital can help Nelson, Bhagwandass said, “I don’t want to say yes and then my doctors say it can’t. I would have to speak to my doctors first. We need first to test the patient.”
Bhagwandass said once Nelson visits the hospital “we are willing to assess her and make a decision. No hospital will refuse her. We are certainly willing to help. I don’t think we will refuse a challenge like that.”
Asked whether a medical team can be sent to examine Nelson, the medical chief said no.
If a team of doctors is willing to help Nelson bring down her weight, the hospital staff will make itself available.
Bhagwandass said gastric bypass was also available in T&T and once Nelson qualifies as a candidate it can take between six months to a year to sort the patient out.
DEHIX focuses on needy and vulnerable people in a bid to help them become self-sufficient and reach their potential.
The organisation is affiliated with various corporations, not-for-profit organizations, universities, social services, religious entities, and governments nationally and internationally.