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Epilepsy hard to track in BVI – Jaleel intensifies the fight

Jaleel Cameron at the launch of his foundation

Chief Executive Officer of the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) Paula Chester-Cumberbatch has noted the challenges the territory faces in dealing with seizures and epilepsy; this while she lauded 12-year-old Jaleel Cameron who has launched a foundation to further help persons affected by the illnesses.

Chester-Cumberbatch said the BVI, like the rest of the world, is having a tough time ascertaining the exact number of people struggling with epilepsy.

“In the BVI for the past five years, we have recorded 108 admission to the emergency department – which means approximately point 3 percent of the population, with an annual average of four children under the age of nine being treated. For adults between the ages of 12 to 64 years, we saw an [annual] average of 13 admissions.”

“However, just as in the United States and worldwide, our data is not clean, as admission does not mean the actual number of persons with epilepsy. And due to the varying causes for seizures, not everyone is diagnosed, as some causes of seizures and epilepsy are fever, trauma to the head, lack of oxygen, or illness,” Chester-Cumberbatch added during the launch of the Jaleel Cameron Foundation on Saturday, June 3.

She further noted that, so far, Jaleel, who is a Grade Seven student at Cedar International, is the youngest donor to the New Peebles Hospital, which is managed by the BVIHSA.

In 2015, Jaleel, who is epileptic, donated $20,000 to purchase an EEG (electroencephalograph) machine for epilepsy patients in the British Virgin Islands.

He picked up the cause after he sought treatment at Peebles Hospital a few years ago, and had to be sent to the United States.

Now that Jaleel has made an EEG machine available locally, he has promised to donate more funds to help with ‘ongoing training’ for the technician who operates the said piece of equipment, said Chester-Cumberbatch.

She lauded Jaleel for his ‘generosity, his perseverance, and his foresight’, adding that initiatives such as the new Jaleel Cameron Foundation are critical as the territory continues to cater to the needs of patients with epilepsy or seizures.

“Jaleel has shown us all how to put others above self, how to be positive and focused in times of uncertainty, and how to have a vision with a purpose and make it a reality,” added Chester-Cumberbatch.

Meanwhile, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, who also attended the launch of the foundation, said he continues to be ‘really impressed’ with Jaleel’s work.

“I want to say how much I appreciate – and how much we all should appreciate Jaleel,” he told the gathering while he encouraged the board of the foundation to always be transparent if it intends to stay afloat.

“One of the important things about having a foundation is that it must continue to have the trust and the confidence of the community so they can continue to support the foundation,” Premier Smith advised. “Jaleel, I know that the people of the BVI will definitely support this organization.”

Jaleel, in the meantime, said he has surprised himself.

“Although this foundation has been named in my honour, I wish to dedicate it to all the children and adults who have suffered with epilepsy…”

“I never imagined my simple suggestion that the hospital needed to have the same machine that was used to diagnose me [for] epilepsy in Miami would receive the support that it has. As my mom would say, I surprise myself always,” the youngster further said.

He also expressed gratitude to the many persons who have been supporting his philanthropic efforts – including members of the Jaleel Cameron Foundation board headed by Mayfield Mair-Daniels. Other board members are Tamara Hodge, Cathy Richards, Yvonne James-Tonge, James Harris, Lisa Romney, Cherryl Fahie, Astrid Wenske, and Heather Butcher.

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