One Struggle Despair and Hope in Belize City Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 March 2018 00:00

By Alfonso Noble

(Part 1)

It’s 11:50a.m. on Tuesday March 20, when I received a call from former councilor Phillip Willoughby, “I’m outside your office,” he says. We had previously arranged for us to take a tour of what has now become his daily routine, he’s no longer at the council and these days Willoughby smiles and says, “I have more time now.” I stepped into his vehicle, in the front passenger seat sat a young man, the first thing that’s noticeable is that he has no legs, amputated from the hip down.” “This is Shefaun,” says Willougby, gives me a quick glance and immediately puts the vehicle in reverse. And we’re off.

Perplexed, I wonder what on earth would a legless man be doing with Willoughby at this time. Within seconds I stretched my hand and introduced myself, and quickly asked, “what’s your last name?” Reflexively he said, “Domingo.” The name rang a bell, but these days with so many names of victims and criminals floating in my brain, the name could not recall any incident. I hastened to ask what happened to him.

He quietly related the series of events that led him to be wheelchair bound. Before he could finish we were at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, Willoughby found a parking space and opened the back of his vehicle, from there he pulled a sporty-looking wheel chair which he took to Domingo allowing for Domingo to be mobile (Willoughby somehow managed to secure this wheelchair for the legless man). As we made our way into the hospital, Willoughby began to chat up a number of people, at every instance making reference to how he knew them. My attention however could not be separated from Domingo’s story, he said, it really was, ‘schupidness.’ In his teens he said he got involved in an argument with someone from his school. That argument festered over years, every time getting worse. It reached a point where in January 2007 he got into a physical fight with the individual ending with him beating the other fellow up. Moments later that same individual would return with a firearm. He recalls being on Amara avenue with friends when he was called out and shot multiple times, one of the bullets hit his spine and that was the end of his life as he knew it- he became an amputee, condemned to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

As we made our way into the hospital and up the elevator which facilitated his movement to the second floor, Domingo said he’s made peace with his life. Asked what happened to the case, he said he is no longer pursuing it. He did say that every time his assailant sees him he hangs his head in shame. To the present, Domingo was contacted by Willougby a few days ago, he was recruited to be a spokesperson against violence. He said he was happy to be a part of it all and was ready to visit primary and high schools to tell his story to the youths. “We have to do something, big man,” he told me.

And we do have to do something. Over the past week that Willoughby has visited the KHMH he said he’s seen 6 young men laid up in a hospital bed suffering as a result of the violence in the city. On this day, there were two left. His first stop was to visit Francis Parham, he is 29 years old and has his left leg amputated above the knee. A jovial East Indian fellow, Parham recounts that on Sunday February 25, this year; he was heading to Belize City on a motorcycle along with another young man when he came under attack by a gunman who stopped beside them in a car and began shooting at them. A .45 pistol was used, the first shot tore through his right leg. “Mi whole leg bruk and swing round,” he said with a smile on his face. This caused him to fall on his back and the gunman stood over him and continued to unleash a barrage of shots. He instinctively raised his left leg up to protect his body from injury and the .45 bullets tore it apart. He was left for dead, after the gunman left, he heard his friend talking on a cellphone. He shouted for help and his friend came to the his aid. He was dragged to the roadside and no one would stop. It was not until about 45 minutes of seeking assistance that a vehicle stopped. It was a doctor who quickly put a ligature on his left leg to prevent further loss of blood. The emergency personnel would later respond and take him to the KHMH where his leg was ultimately amputated. The other leg is now in bandages hoping for it to repair itself.

Parham knows the attacker, “I buy weed from the man, we hail one another and thing,” he said. “I no know why he shot me!” he explained. Parham says he has no problem with anyone and from speaking to him he appears to be an easygoing person quick to smile and laugh. But his name is synonymous with crime in Belize City, his cousins are well known to police and their name have made numerous headlines both as assailants and victims. Willoughby interjected, “he dah wah Parham,” and Francis, shook his head in resignation and said, “maybe that’s why I get shot, now I no got mi foot.”

After a few other words Willoughby walked off to the next room, there we found an emaciated looking  Emmerson Garnett, both his feet were amputated just above the ankle. Garnett, is an employee of Bowen and Bowen. On February 21st, he went to Police street to buy a smoke of weed. As he was doing so, an altercation erupted between some young men who were in the same area. Shortly thereafter one of the men left. He returned with a firearm and as Garnett said, “he start buss it up.” When it was all over Garnet had received a number of gunshots. He was rushed to the KHMH and for just about a month he’s laid up trying to recover. As he did so, a blood clot developed and it cut off circulation to both is feet, gangrene set it and both feet had to be amputated.

Willoughby says when he visits the young men at the hospital he brings them, among other things, the dietary supplement, Ensure. “I give them out so much, that I start to drink them myself,” he says. Willoughby says he was most concerned for Garnett as it appeared that he had given up on life. Back to Domingo—he accompanied Willoughby on the visits. As he watched Garnett in bed he must have remembered his own struggles. “Try no sleep only pah you back, bredda. You cud ketch bed sores,” he told Garnett. He then continued to tell Garnett not to give up and recalled that when he was there he had to focus on developing his upper body strength. Garnett was quick to agree and noted that he sleeps on his side most of the times and is looking forward to begin to do exercise to build up his upper body. But there is a sadness in Garnett, “I mi di work, now I have to see if Social wah declare me medically unfit, I now have to do something,” he told me.

As we sat there conversations changed rapidly, Domingo told Garnett that he was a musician, a passion they both shared and Garnett quickly accessed You-tube and found “Fimi Sojas” (for my soldiers). It is a song, a lament really, that has become the anthem of the Southside of Belize City as young men have declared war on one another openly trying to eliminate themselves. The song was written and performed by Garnett and his brother, before he lost his feet. Garnett and Domingo quickly found commonality and in a short space of time were exchanging numbers and ideas. They may soon be singing together as Domingo too shared with Garnett a song which he has written and performed. “No video yet,” he readily admitted.

Even as the young men found some good news in the visit, Garnett has major issues he has to contend with; he is jobless, has 4 children and the look of helplessness was evident in his stare. He lamented not being with his children and complained that he did not know who they were staying with—“It is the social effects of crime,” pointed out Willoughby.

By the time we moved on it was almost the end of visiting hours but we sneaked some time with the 17 year old who was shot in the incident which claimed the life 64 year-old Theresita Flowers, and 17 year-old Delcia Blanco. The young lady had a tube attached to her lung as a drain, she was shot to the right arm and the bullet entered her upper body injuring her lung making it difficult for her to breath. She recounted that she was visiting the home of Flowers and was alerted to gunmen coming into the house. She ran into a room and hid under a bed until the gunshots subsided. After it was all done she noticed that she had been shot. “I just mi di visit, I no know why deh shot up inna di house like that she said.” Before her tale, Willoughby shuffled an envelope out his pocket and handed it over to another woman who was present, “this should take care of some of the needs,” he said and gave them a sympathetic smile.

By the time we moved out it was a few minutes after 1 and as we walked out the medical wards, I wondered what more Willougby had in store for me on this Tuesday Tour…

We walked out the hospital and back into willougby’s vehicle and we were off again… heading to Nurse Sea Street…