After doctors gave him a few months to live Stephan Persad made a bold decision and got engaged to his girlfriend of seven years, because he still hopes to have a long life with her.
Persad, 29, did not expect a visit to the dentist in January would result in the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease, acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
At his home at Seepaul Boulevard in La Romaine on Thursday, an emotional Persad and family told Newsday they are still in shock over everything that has happened to him.
He said, “It started with a normal toothache and like anyone else I took meds to ease the pain. But it got so bad that I needed to visit a doctor, and after several tests, including a biopsy, a short time after, we found out it was AML.
“I was devastated, and we couldn’t believe this.”
His mother Denyse said they had already spent almost $300,000 on treatment for him, which included intense chemotherapy in Cuba, after local doctors said that would be the best option.
She said when they came home they tried to get Persad into clinics for follow-up treatment but were unsuccessful, and he relapsed.
Denyse said, “He was in remission and waiting to get back in San Fernando General Hospital. He relapsed. There were no spaces available, there was not a haematologist available.
“There was nothing we could do but hope and pray that he would get admitted.
"We did get a blood test, but this showed that he was back to square one.”
She said it will cost $2.4 million to treat him at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, US, and with the price being so high, she fears the worse.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help raise funds, but Denyse said while they have been getting donations, the target is a long way off.
“People have been contributing whatever they can, and we are grateful for their assistance, especially in the post-covid19 climate, where many people are jobless."
Their local councillor has also reached out and several NGOs have chipped in.
But, she said, "It has been almost three weeks we have been waiting for the Health Ministry to give some indication of how they can assist. This is a nightmare.
"We are pleading with the Ministry of Health to intervene and provide some type of assistance for my child. We are good people, we pay our taxes and obey they law, so why can't we get help? This is a desperate situation.”
Denyse said has reached the point of desperation. Persad and his sister Sian feel the same.
Having lost their father almost two years ago, the family said when Stephan fell ill, tthey were now beginning to return to normality.
Persad said, “I planned to do some work in the house and take care of my family. I wanted to give Crystal,my fiancée, her dream wedding, and a beautiful life.
"Now all of that is on hold or might even be taken away. I now spend most of my days in bed, disgustingly ill, sad, frustrated, angry, upset, depressed.
"But I remember the love of my family and I fight so I can be with them, because they are fighting for me.”
Persad said he has lived a fulfilling, active and fun life. He never imagined it could be snatched away so easily.
He recalled, “Football was my preferred sport and I played a lot with friends. I would work out at the gym almost every day.
"But I always thanked God for his blessings...I still have faith that it will work out and I urge anyone who is going through hard time to keep steadfast in whatever they believe in.”
Anyone wishing to assist Persad can do so through bank deposit at First Citizens Bank at account number 2532627 under the name Denyse Persad, or visit his GoFundMe.