Gillian Hartley was stunned 24 years ago when her second child, Sebastian Marsh, was born physically challenged.
He is unable to walk due to a deformity, which causes his legs to be short and twisted.
“Mi haffi wear shorts and cut-off pants; mi can’t wear full pants based on how mi foot stay,” Sebastian told The Beacon.
He sometimes walks on his hands, but he mainly uses a wheelchair – especially when he wants to move speedily and comfortably.
The deformity has not prevented Sebastian from significantly helping himself at home in the Treadways area of Linstead, St. Catherine.
“Mi can cook fi miself; mi can clean; and mi can bathe miself,” he explained. “Mi wash mi clothes, but mi nuh really good pon washing, and soh mi mother help mi out with that.”
Notwithstanding his best effort to remain independent, Sebastian faces huge setbacks, including unemployment and stigma.
He stated that, although some people stigmatize him, he, over the years, has bolstered his self-esteem and has learnt to be appreciative of himself.
“When mi goh out, people stay far from mi,” Sebastian said, adding: “Mi nuh mek that bother mi because a nuh mi mek miself.”
His mother, Gillian, said her son has been plagued by discrimination since birth.
She explained that Sebastian’s father turned his back on him and didn’t visit him for decades, adding that one of her sisters encouraged her to abandon Sebastian.
“Mi tell my sister that Sebastian is my belly pain; it can’t work soh,” added Gillian, who noted that her son’s situation is mild when compared to other cases she has seen.
The mother also disclosed that Sebastian never attended school. “Mi carry him goh school; the teachers said they would take him in, but he would distract the other children,” she explained.
Gillian further told The Beacon that efforts also were made to get Sebastian into the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre (formerly Mona Rehabilitation Centre), but those attempts proved futile.
The mother, who said she is unemployed because she is feeling pain mainly in her knees, noted that Sebastian is a beneficiary of the government’s welfare programme – PATH.
However, she said the PATH benefits are inadequate, and so her family still struggles to eke out a living.
“Mi alone struggle with Sebastian from baby days till now,” the mother said. “I want to see my son become something in life so that I can be proud of him.”
Sebastian, in the meantime, stated that he, despite physical limitations, wants to make his mother proud.
He also wants to attend school and to make it big in the music industry as an artiste.
Sebastian is also on a mission to inspire greater confidence in differently abled people. “It doesn’t matter if you are on your bed, if you can’t move, or if you are sick, just don’t give up; have faith,” he told them.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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