In 2007, Cathy Ann Edwards-Arthur's seemingly normal life was literally shattered.
While in Santa Cruz a horse smashed through the windshield of her car. The horrific accident left her with injuries to her neck and spine. Luckily, Edwards-Arthur was able to walk away from the car crash with relatively minor injuries.
The bizarre incident, which was covered in the newspaper, showed the extensive damage to Edwards-Arthur's car but what the report did not reveal was the extent of the impact on her life.
Speaking with Express at the launch of the new Elevate series at Carlton Savannah recently, she said, "I realised there was more to life. If I had died that day at least I wanted to know I did something with my life that impacted others in a positive way."
Her close brush with death, Edwards-Arthur admits, made her look at her life differently. Now as the executive director and founder of the Jah Heart Foundation, she is using as some would say her 'second chance' at life to do something to help others.
In the beginning she admits it was difficult. She was in a neck brace for three months and in a lot of pain. Today, she still suffers with pain she says from the accident, however, after becoming a godmother and finding out her godchild Saniyah had cerebral palsy, she knew right away what would be her mission in life.
The Jah Heart Foundation, VCD/Titan — The Art of Entertainment and the Carlton Savannah have all come together to raise the awareness of cerebral palsy through their Elevate series which was launched recently on the rooftop of the Carlton Savannah in St Ann's.
This series, Edwards-Arthur says, can be simply described as a party with a purpose.
Jah Heart is a non-profit organisation that has been in existence since March 2009. Its mission is to help children with cerebral palsy and their families obtain the best treatment where possible.
She said, "I have a 'soft spot' for kids; I have no children of my own but I believe that I was supposed to do this."
Under Fly Society, Jah Heart
Foundation, VCD/Titan—The Art of Entertainment and Carlton Savannah through their Elevate series will throw parties throughout the year to help raise awareness of cerebral palsy. Part of the proceeds raised from the series will go towards the Jah Heart Foundation.
Edwards-Arthur said, "When my goddaughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, I realised this was what I was meant to do—to not just assist her, but others too.
"Because Trinidadians are party-oriented they don't really study charities unless it is Christmas or at certain times of the year, I decided to team up with other promoters to do parties for a cause. This is the first party for the year," she said.
"The foundation is really small and at the moment we have only been working with Saniyah however our future goals would be to take on other families that need assistance," she said.
"A lot of people aren't aware of what cerebral palsy is and don't understand its effects," she added.
"Saniyah is 21 months old and cannot walk or talk. Part of the proceeds raised from the series will assist her and her parents to go to Panama at the Stem Cell Institute for "Saniyah to get treatment," Edwards-Arthur said.
"The cost of treatment is approximately TT$96,000," she added.
She noted that, while there were organisations that assisted with cancer, dyslexia and orphans in Trinidad and Tobago, treatment for children with cerebral palsy locally was limited.
She said, "Cerebral palsy is not curable but with treatment can alleviate the disability."
The second installation of the Elevate series is scheduled to take place on November 24 with a breakfast cruise aboard the Treasure Queen from 3 a.m.
Edwards-Arthur said, "Cerebral palsy is a very expensive disability, it is not something you can easily maintain on your own, even for middle-class families, it is difficult."
"My vision is to be known throughout Trinidad and Tobago as a foundation where you can walk in and get assistance," she added.
WHAT IS CEREBRAL PALSY?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way). CP is usually caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a child's birth, or during the first 3 to 5 years of a child's life.
The brain damage that leads to cerebral palsy can also lead to other health issues, including vision, hearing, and speech problems, and learning disabilities.
There is no cure for CP, but treatment, therapy, special equipment, and, in some cases, surgery can help a child who is living with the condition.
Cerebral palsy is one of the most common congenital (existing before birth or at birth) disorders of childhood. About 500,000 children and adults of all ages in the United States have the condition.
The three types of CP are:
1. spastic cerebral palsy—causes stiffness and movement difficulties
2. athetoid cerebral palsy—leads to involuntary and uncontrolled movements
3. ataxic cerebral palsy—causes a disturbed sense of balance and depth perception
Cerebral palsy affects muscle control and coordination, so even simple movements—like standing still—are difficult. Other vital functions that also involve motor skills and muscles—such as breathing, bladder and bowel control, eating, and learning—may also be affected when a child has CP. Cerebral palsy does not get worse over time.
The exact causes of most cases of CP are unknown, but many are the result of problems during pregnancy in which the brain is either damaged or doesn't develop normally. This can be due to infections, maternal health problems, a genetic disorder, or something else that interferes with normal brain development. Problems during labour and delivery can cause CP in some cases. but this is the exception.
Premature babies—particularly those who weigh less than 3.3 pounds (1,510 grammes)—have a higher risk of CP than babies that are carried full-term, as are other low birth weight babies and multiple births, such as twins and triplets.
Brain damage in infancy or early childhood can also lead to CP. A baby or toddler might suffer this damage because of lead poisoning, bacterial meningitis, malnutrition, being shaken as an infant (shaken baby syndrome), or being in a car accident while not properly restrained. –kidshealth.org