DR RADICA MAHASE
This week I am happy to feature another superdad who goes that extra mile to care for his child. A special thank you to Celine Mohammed and Amba Gopie who very kindly and thoroughly transcribed an audio interview with proud autism dad Mickel.
“My name is Mickel Harold Marjadsingh. My son’s name is Brandon and he just turned 13. He was a healthy normal baby until he was seven months old, when he started getting very bad seizures.
"He was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. We were told that he was on the severe end of the autism spectrum and that he would need adult supervision 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for the rest of his life.
"Brandon loves the noise of weedwackers and he loves big, heavy machinery. He could sit and watch that all day. He loves to eat KFC and watermelon. He despises clothes, so we have to make special jumpers for him so he can’t take them off easily, especially if he’s in public. He met his speech milestones as a toddler, but his development was delayed in other areas.
"When Brandon was diagnosed it was very hard to accept the diagnosis because I knew nothing about autism. I didn’t know what these children are like and their capabilities. I’m a father of one son, and as a father you have certain hopes and dreams for your child – to go to school, to do extra-curricular activities. I wanted Brandon to get involved in mixed martial arts and cricket, and from what we were told, it appears that he wouldn’t be able to do anything of these things. So hearing his diagnosis was very heartbreaking in that moment.
"It has been a very challenging journey so far – physically, financially and psychologically. Brandon is a teenager and he isn't potty-trained as yet. Getting Brandon into a school; getting the right clothes for him; dealing with his meltdowns; his seizures, as he is epileptic as well – it has been a challenging road.
"It became even more challenging last year, when his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and in that situation, she has had to step back as Brandon’s primary caregiver and I have now picked up that role.
"Financially, it is very difficult because now I have to pay someone to see about Brandon while I am at work, because he doesn't attend school.
"Thankfully I have a great support system – my parents, brother and sister, uncle and a few of my cousins. I am very grateful to them for their help. I am also grateful to my employers, Safety Plus Ltd, who have been very supportive in the 12 years I have been working there. Every time I would need time off to be with Brandon because he’s having bad seizures and I have to stay in the hospital with him, it would take just a phone call to my boss, who is always very understanding and empathetic. He would tell me take all the time I need, make sure Brandon is well and then come back out and do my work. To Mr and Mrs Ramsumair – thank you very much!
"As a parent, you learn to read your child, you learn to love them more every passing day. Although Brandon doesn't speak, I can recognise signs when something’s not right with him. He will try to tell me that he’s hungry by opening the microwave. When he lies on the floor or sits down on the couch and rubs his head, you know his head is hurting and a seizure might be coming on.
"So while there are the challenges, there are ways to deal with these challenges. This journey and the challenges that we meet up as special-needs parents, it’s not for the faint of heart. My best coping mechanism is finding the joy that exists in the journey – the music in Brandon’s laughter, the brightness of his smile, his innocence, the 1,000 per cent love that he shows and of course his hugs and kisses.
"I want the best for my son. I want to be in a position to be able to send him to every therapy he needs, to get him the best medications, so he could become self-functioning as much as possible. I want him to be happy and to know that he is surrounded by people who genuinely love and care for him and only want the best for him.
"I worry about what will happen to him, who will care for him when his core family is no longer here. What happens to Brandon in that situation, when his mother goes or when I go or my parents or my siblings? Where would he be without me and her looking over him?
"That is just heartbreaking to think about and I just want to make an appeal to whomever might read this article, if you’re in government, we need something for our children and for the adults who live with autism, for when caregivers aren’t around and aren’t able to see about them.
"I try my best to be the father that I need to be. There are certain things that I used to do before Brandon that I give no second thought to doing now, because I spend all my money on him. I have to try and put my best foot forward and execute my duties as best as I can. I try to pace myself and do as I must, as best as I possibly could. I am there for my son. I am happy that I am there to converse with the doctors to try and hammer out a better course of action when it comes to Brandon’s seizure.
"I know that if I wasn’t a good father, then my own father, brother and uncle would have had a problem with that and he would pull up on me to do better.
"My advice to other fathers and those who take on a fatherly role is to pray. Pray and ask God for all the guidance that you need, to guide these children into what they need to become. As well as the knowledge to apply that guidance when they need it.
"Love your children, because there is nobody in this world who would love your children more than you. Love them with every ounce and every fibre of your bones, because they need that love, they need that support. Always show up with and for your children.
"I believe that Brandon was sent to me for a purpose, because there are a lot of things that I thought I was and I thought I knew before Brandon. Brandon taught me how to be selfless and to love.
"I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for everybody and it wasn’t a mistake that these children are entrusted in your care.
"Educate yourself about autism because the more you know, the more you can help your child in every way possible. Make time to go to those therapy sessions, make time to go to those doctor visits, make time to just spend time and have fun with your family. Always make time for your children.”
Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T