Monday, December 11, 2006
The first time I met him, he was with his mother and older brother. She introduced herself as Empress Shaniqua, and presented her two young sons to me as Prince Elijah and Prince Iwon. I had to respect the attempt to present herself with great dignity, given that her clothing was sunbleached and threadbare, the princes wore no shoes, and they all lived in a small board house on a remote mountain top, without indoor plumbing.
Well, it WAS her palace and she WAS the resident Empress. And I guess every mother would call her sons "prince." It just seemed as if Empress Shaniqua took it one step further, and insisted that we all address her and the little boys with their formal titles.
When I returned a year later, the Empress was no longer in residence. Seems she was a city girl from Town who eventually came to the realization that rasta life inna country yard was not really her cup of tea, royal title or not. She took one prince, and left the younger one with the Ras.
And she cleaned out the savings account before hopping on the last minibus for Kingston.
So the Ras was left with this little Prince, who clearly had a problem.
My first thought was that the little boy had perhaps suffered some form of birth defect. But I didn't remember him looking like this the last time I'd met him. I don't think it's politically correct to say "mentally retarded" these days, but I must honestly admit that's exactly what I was thinking as I watched him move about the yard. He looked up at us with half open, heavy-lidded eyes; his jaw was slack and he tended to drool.
The Ras clearly had his hands full. As we spoke, he slowly began to talk about the Empress and what they discovered about their youngest prince. He had become progressively worse over the past year, his physical symptoms slowly worsening to the point that a formal doctor had finally been consulted. Actually, I think it took several different doctors before they pinned it down.
The diagnosis: Myesthenia Gravis
Myasthenia gravis, according to what I've read, is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by varying degrees of weakness of the voluntary muscles of the body. It is typical for such muscles as those that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, talking, and swallowing to be adversely affected.The disease is most debilitating if the muscles that control breathing, the neck and limb movements are affected.
When we next visit the Ras and the little prince, I hope we'll have some information about new treatments for the disease.
And I'll remember not to judge a book by its cover, royal title or not.
Posted by VH McKenzie at 8:41 AM