KINGSTON, JAMAICA – A Norwich man who dedicated his life to the service of the less than fortunate is now in dire straits after suffering injury while in the midst of a humanitarian effort, and family members are now seeking community help to defray the cost of hospitalization abroad.
Jeffery Neadom founded the Jamaican Schools Project in 2012. The program aims to benefit the seldom heard of, but very real face of poor rural Jamaica. While known to most Americans as a go-to destination for leisure and relaxation, just beyond the resort life lies a struggling economy laden with income inequality and a crumbling infrastructure.
Befriending a family in the small community Red Light, Neadom has spent the past three years renovating the Craighton Primary – a cramped, under maintained school that serves roughly 125 students – traveling back home to Norwich to work and generate additional funding for the cause.
Neadom recently began utilizing the power of the ever popular crowd-funding site “GoFundMe” to bring his vision into fruition. An initial goal of $5,000 was set to enhance education to the children of Craighton.
Several trips to the rural village have proven successful over the past two years, and in January Neadom once again set off to continue his mission, until now.
Two weeks ago Neadom fell from atop a ladder while working and suffered some devastating and life-threatening injuries. The impact was so great that Neadom was unconscious for more than five minutes according to witnesses. Eventually, he would be transported to University hospital in Kingston, Jamaica where he currently lies clinging to life breath by breath.
“Jeff has always been a bit of a gypsy,” said Charles Neadom of Norwich, brother of the ailing. “He has no health insurance, so our family has mobilized to get him the care that he needs – it's a very trying situation.”
Neadom's family has literally mobilized, including his niece Amanda Downey – a nurse from Owego, NY. Once receiving word of her kind uncle's plight, Downey quickly made plans to travel to Jamaica to aid by whatever means possible. Upon arrival to his bedside, Downey had immediate concerns regarding Neadom's condition.
“When I arrived he wasn't getting any pain medication, was on the wrong antibiotic and hadn't had any nutrition supplements in 10 days,” said Downey. “He was in a room with many other patients running a 104° fever and in respiratory distress, things were not looking very good for him,” Downey said.
While Neadom's advocate has made headway in his treatment, she describes the overall conditions of the hospital – which is one of the best in Jamaica – as “at least 50 years behind” in regard to medical technology and processes.
With Downey championing for the fallen Neadom, he has been relocated to a much cleaner Intensive Care Unit of the facility and receiving medications for pain. Downey says that he is now a ventilator, has had a chest tube and feeding tube placed and being administered IV fluids – all of which had to be paid for by Downey in advance.
“He is stable, but not well. He now has with an infection in his chest from when they placed the tube. He's septic, which means his blood is infected – and he has lost a lot of weight,” said Downey, “I have to provide everything for him: linens, washcloths, water and medications.”
The Niece indicates that the hospital provides nothing without pre-payment.
“We take our healthcare system for granted everyday, but it's much worse elsewhere – and this is an example of just that,” said Charles Neadom.
“The very best here doesn't compare to the worst in New York, said Downey, “and even that's is probably an understatement. The people here in Jamaica are very intelligent, but only have so much to work with – and it's costing a lot because I'm demanding and begging.”
The goal now is to keep Neadom in good care so that he can heal and recover, but that takes cash. Family members are urging the community to donate to the GoFundMe site that Neadom created in an effort to help defray the expense for his medical care, which Downey estimates could soar into the $50,000 rage when all said and done.
“Right now it's really about continuing to get him the best care possible, and money talks here,” said Downey.
Neadom's niece indicates that she received a bill for approximately $6,000 for two days of care in the ICU — and that he is now into day five. “I haven't even received the bill for the 10 days prior to me getting here, and I've been using what I have thus far,” said Downey.
Downey has been lodging with the family that her uncle has been working with over the past two years some 40 minutes away from her uncle's bedside; but their resources are extremely limited.
Downey said, “I'm depending on people that he was staying with for transportation which is sometimes difficult – they still have to work and provide for themselves. The people are good here but it's such a poor place. Everyone works hard from sun up to sun down.”
The need for Neadom's community to step in is great. The family have reached out to both the U.S. Embassy and American Red Cross, but those calls for aid have fallen on deaf ears. “We are trying to raise money to help with the cost here for him, and the best way for us to make that a reality is by continuing to utilize the GoFundMe account that Neadom set up late last year.”
Anyone can donate to help with Neadom's expenses by navigating to gofundme.com/jamaicanschools or by simply Google searching “Jeff Neadom Jamaican Schools Project.”
“All donations matter, and they all add up, said Downey, “It's difficult for people back home to understand how it is here, but I now have the very best taking care of him; I honestly don't think he would have survived one more night – but I will stay until I know he's okay,” said Downey.