Police Constable Winston Burke has been endowed with a passion for helping others, including the nation’s youth.
But he has not been able to pursue his passion of late because since last November he has been floored by a damaged spine for which he requires surgery.
The 32-year-old constable, who is assigned to the Community Safety and Security Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in St Ann, requires the assistance of the public in raising about $1.7 million to undergo an L4-L5 Discectomy for Cauda Equina Decompression.
“Two discs, both the L4 and L5, are severely damaged in my spine that’s causing me to be in excruciating pain non-stop. The pain is mostly in the left side of my back and feet,” Burke told Jamaica Today in a recent interview.
According to the website, spine-heath.com, “the L4-L5 are the two lowest vertebrae in the lumbar spine, and together with the attached disc, joints, nerves and soft tissues, it provides a variety of functions, including supporting the upper body and allowing motion in multiple directions.”
However, the website said that with “its heavy load and range of flexibility, the L4-L5 segment is also prone to developing pain from injury and/or from degenerative changes”, such as “the L4 vertebra slipping forward over the L5 vertebra, causing lower back pain and/or leg pain (sciatica).”
Constable Burke said that the injury occurred in April 2013 when a vehicle ran into the back of his car while he was on his way to work. He began feeling pain after the accident but doctors suggested he was suffering from muscle spasms.
“I would feel pain on and off until November 2017. I fell on my knees in severe pain while I was at work. So, I went to the hospital and a doctor wrote a referral for me to do an MRI. When I got back the results he said it’s a miracle I am still walking because by the looks of things I should be crippled,” the police officer said.
A recommendation was then made for the surgery but despite his insurance company standing some of the cost, along with the Police Federation, Constable Burke requires further monetary assistance.
Since he went on sick leave in November because of his condition, Constable Burke’s life has changed in ways he could not have imagined.
“I can hardly walk for more than a minute. Also, if I stand, I have to bend over and lean on something. Otherwise, I don’t go anywhere that would require of me to walk, sit or stand because of the pain,” Burke added.
If the surgery is not done soon the policeman faces the harsh reality of being disabled permanently.
In the face of the excruciating pain he experiences each day, Constable Burke has been trying to raise funds on his own by selling songs that he has recorded on CDs. He has also been receiving support from his colleagues and his friends.
“My mom is sicker than I am so the family focus is there, although most of her finances are still carried out by me, but God has a way of changing things so am hoping,” he said with great optimism.
Burke’s passion for helping the youth population made him a key force behind the staging of a police job fair held in Ocho Rios last April.
The job fair, which saw several companies partnering with the police, helped approximately 273 persons gain meaningful employment. He has continued his involvement in the planning of a second job fair scheduled for later this year.
The Dinthill Technical alumnus, who joined the police force in 2011, said he has continued to assist the youth despite his own challenges.
“Right now I just have to give thanks to be alive because that’s what I’m using to find strength. I still help people and even though I am on my back, I use my phone to make contact (with companies and persons) to get people into jobs and schools,” he highlighted.
Constable Burke is hoping that he will get the opportunity to have the surgery completed so that he can continue his work with the nation’s youth.
“I have a few more programs that will take the youths that aren’t working into school or work,” he said.
Individuals, who wish to assist Winston Burke with his surgery, may do so by making a donation to 584257849 NCB, Ocho Rios branch. A Go-Fund me page has also been established to assist with his operation.
Persons wishing to contribute through that medium may visit the website at https://www.gofundme.com/5xaydw-urgent-spinal-surgery.