‘Please help to give me my life back’

Ila HenryAn open letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

The following letter was sent to the Caribbean Camera by a 27-year old woman in St. Lucia. The letter has been forwarded to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and the federal Liberal Black caucus:

Ila Henry

Ila HenryDear Mr. Hussen,
My name is Ila Henry and I would like first to congratulate on your new appointment. which I believe gives you the ability to make some real changes in how immigration and citizenship is dealt with in Canada. I’m not just writing to laud your achievement but also to make a plea on my own behalf.

I decided to present you with my dilemma because I believe that you, being an immigrant from a developing country, would understand my plight and may be persuaded to help me.

Here is my story. I am 27 years old and was born and currently reside in the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.. I live here with my mom and dad. Juliana and Herbert Henry.She is a a cosmetologist and he, a chef

In March of 2005 a couple months before I was supposed to graduate from high school and sit my secondary school leaving examination (we call them CXC’s) at age sixteen, I began experiencing weakness in my joints and limbs, inability to lift said limbs along with discoloration of my skin.

After the first set of diagnostics were run at Victoria Hospital in St. Lucia, the medical terms poliomyelitis and SLE (Systematic Lupus Erythematosus) were thrown around. but after traveling to the United States. in July of 2005, I visited the Connecticut Children’s Medical Centre where I was diagnosed with a rare and complicated auto immune illness called Dermatomyositis. The exact words used by one the doctors who saw me, a reputable expert in his field, were “Ila has a complicated version of a complicated illness.” Lucky me!

After receiving treatment in the United States, I returned to St.Lucia in September of that year and was able to do certain things physically that I hadn’t done in months. Things were looking up or so I thought.

Then a high fever in December of 2005 obliterated my physical progress and crushed my dreams again. This Illness robbed me of my health, mobility and future little by little. The weakness in my limbs increased until I was unable to walk or even stand. I took my last step somewhere around June of 2006.

I was supposed to return to school in January of that same year to write my CXC exams but wheelchair accessible schools aren’t readily available where I’m from. So I have been left with nothing more than a primary school education .

It is quite disappointing because I believe that I am a pretty intelligent person with a lot of potential. I wanted to become either a psychologist or an electrical engineer . Yes, I know that those two careers are as unrelated as apples and motor oil but I have always been interested in those professions.

In 2007, my folks took me to the United States again..I stayed there two years until we decided to return home because my progress had reached its plateau, and we were out of money since my parents could not work in the United States and our bills were piling up in St. Lucia .

I’d wanted so badly to be well and pursue my dreams when I was carried onto that American Airlines flight in September of 2007 but instead of renewed health and a career, I found that I had been sentenced to a bed.

Fast forward to May 2015, I was hospitalized for a week with complications from my illness. During that time I received the most unprofessional care from so called medical professionals and ancillary staff that I vowed never to return to that place. It’s a stupid vow to make because I am uninsurable due to my pre-existing condition. However, if an emergency arose, I would have no choice but to return there. It is it the national hospital of St. Lucia and it is all I can afford.

There have been times since then when I have felt really ill but suffered through it, not even alerting my parents because I know they’d take me back there. I never want to return to that place. That incident was final straw for me.

Later in 2015 I was told by a relative about a rheumatologist in Toronto who is a maverick in her field and how she helped her daughter get back on her feet. Small setback though was her specialty was treating schleroderma. However I was not deterred.

. In February of last year I visited my Rheumatologist and after looking at my skin and running some very expensive blood tests, Schleroderma was confirmed.
Two months later my doctor prepared my medical file and faxed it to the doctor in T Toronto. She reviewed it and in May of last year, scheduled me for an initial appointment on December 1st.

It was seven months away and I was already so tired of being in this bed that the email of the appointment confirmation was met with a flood of tears. But my mom convinced me to just accept it. After all I was still given a shot.

I’m bedridden, completely non-ambulatory. My mom takes care of me daily – cooking, bed baths and bathroom assistance – but because I’m taller and heavier than she , all lifting and putting me in chairs or vehicles has to be done by my dad.. This information was included in the letter from the Toronto doctor to the Canadian High Commission when we- my parents and I – applied for our visas in November last year. But we were rejected.

Mr. Hussen I’m appealing to your humanity and asking, begging and pleading for you to help me and my parents gain access to your country so I can receive the medical treatment I know is available. Please help to give me my life back.. I have exhausted my country’s medical resources and expertise and will eventually meet my untimely demise if I were to remain here.

I have suffered through these illnesses and borne the heartache and disappointment that has come with it for a long time. To say it’s been hard to watch my body deteriorate while my age increases and everyone around me thrives, would be a gross understatement. It has been close to impossible. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve asked God to end my life. Not just for my sake but also to free my parents financially and physically. They’re not young anymore and the guilt of being so burdensome is getting to be too much for me.

We are coming up on the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my personal hell and I would be overjoyed and eternally grateful if it would be the last in my current condition. The only way that happens is through the acquisition of three Canadian visas to get me into the very capable hands of the doctor who is at the Toronto Western Hospital. Thank you in advance for reading my letter and for any assistance you can are willing to provide. I’m hopeful that something positive will come out of this, I have so much potential and so much to offer this world. I just need to be given a chance.

Ila Henry.