Friday, January 19, 2018

To hug mummy

13-year-old Thomas Baboolal has just one wish:


still smiling: Thirteen-year-old Thomas Baboolal smiles as he sits with his mother Oumatie Seepersad-Baboolal, yesterday. —Photo: TREVOR WATSON

Mark Fraser

Oumatie Seepersad-Baboolal felt a kick in her stomach, that was when she found out she was eight months pregnant.

She was taken to hospital that day, and when the ultrasound was done, doctors found that the baby would not be normal, and would likely suffer from dwarfism.

When Thomas was born, he had no arms, and only one leg was fully formed. He was kept from his mother for two days, and stayed in hospital for three months. Doctors gave him a 50-50 chance to live.

That was 13 years ago. 

Thomas has defied the doctors’ prognosis, learning to use that single limb to explore his world.

His medical condition is similar to Veera Bhajan, who was also born without arms but who went on to become an attorney and motivational speaker, having recently launched the Footprints Foundation, to raise funds for physically challenged children.

But unlike Bhajan, Thomas cannot walk, has developmental problems, and the family is in need of help to find him the best care.

The Express spoke with Thomas’ mother at the family’s home at Chester Street, Debe on Tuesday. 

Seepersad-Baboolal, 47, said, “When I first saw him I was shocked. They didn’t tell me he was born without hands. They tell me he was born deformed.” 

She said she blamed herself for her child’s condition, thinking she did something wrong during her pregnancy.

After spending three months in the nursery at the San Fernando General Hospital, Thomas improved to the point where he was discharged in the care of his family. The family all had counselling on how to cope and understand Thomas’s disability. Seepersad-Baboolal said, “It took a while to get over how I saw Thomas. And now I get accustom.” 

Thomas’ growth is stunted and he suffers with scoliosis, a spinal deformity. He has the stature of a toddler and is unable to speak fluently.  Seepersad-Baboolal said Thomas only began speaking at the age of ten, and his speech has gradually improved. He survived on milk and juice and had his first taste of food when he was nine years old, but can only digest soft foods.

However, according to his mother, Thomas has learned to use his foot to eat, write on the laptop, make his bed, and can move about the house by sitting on a chair and pushing himself across the floor.

Asked what he would  do if he had arms, Thomas said “Hug mummy”, then placed his head on her chest.

Advancements in the fields of prosthetics and biomechanics would give Thomas a chance to walk and grasp, but the family has objected, since it would require amputating part of his good leg.

Seepersad-Baboolal said, “If they go to take away that (his leg) I feel that would be the end of Thomas.”  

During the interview, Thomas was wearing a watch on the ankle, and demonstrated his skill at removing it without assistance. When asked about the things he likes, Thomas said dancing, listening to music, watching his favourite cartoon Tom and Jerry and eating pumpkin. 

Thomas has never attended school and his education has become the sole responsibility of his family, having decided not to enrol him at the Lady Hochoy Home in Penal, since he needs special care.

Seepersad-Baboolal said she is also diabetic with high blood pressure and asthma and recently had cataract surgery. 

She said, “I know his father and brothers will take care of him if I’m not around.” 

Seepersad-Baboolal said she is saving for a motorised wheelchair to make moving about easier for Thomas. But the cost of maintaining Thomas has put a financial strain on the family as his father, Doodnath Baboolal,  58, is the sole breadwinner and was recently injured in a construction site accident. 

However, Seepersad-Baboolal said the family endures. Thomas receives a Special Child Grant from Social Welfare. 



 Veera Bhajan created a non-profit  organisation known as Footprints Foundation which supports children like her.

 Thomas has received therapy from Dr Ian Mahase at the Caribbean Medical Solutions facility located at Caroni Savannah Road, Charlieville.

  Scoliosis is a medical condition where the person’s spine is curved.