‘Jamaica will always be my home, but now Long Island really feels like home.’
“I’m originally from Port Antonio, a small town in Jamaica. At age 6, I started getting sick all the time. The doctors gave me a penicillin shot but didn’t test to see if I was allergic. It turned out I was. I ended up in the hospital and a wheelchair.
“I found myself constantly getting sick. No one knew why. Eventually I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, and the virus went untreated for so long it damaged two heart valves.
“I had family in the U.S. who work in health care and spoke to management at North Shore University Hospital about a cardiac program with St. Jude’s. They managed to get me there to have the surgery.
“I was in the operating room the next day, got out of the hospital about a week after and ended up staying with family in Roosevelt during the healing process. I missed home, but I also found things I loved for the first time.
I saw snow for the first time, thinking it was rain, then said out loud, ‘What is that?’
“I really liked going to the mall. I tried a Tootsie Roll there, which I had never had before. It was amazing! They didn’t have that in Jamaica at the time. I remember going shopping, and I got this cool sweater, but couldn’t stop wondering, ‘What am I going to do with this when I get back to Jamaica?’
“I saw snow for the first time, thinking it was rain, then said out loud, ‘What is that?’ About 10 years after going home, I was contacted by the U.S. embassy, who said my papers went through to move back. It turns out my dad, who is a U.S. citizen, had filed papers for me when I was 17, and it took many years to go through. It was good timing. I was in my 20s, and at that point, I didn’t feel like Jamaica was working out.
“I moved back to Roosevelt again in 2016. I felt like it was a meant-to-be thing. I had options to live in NYC or Florida, but I wanted to come back here. I’ll be taking the citizenship test soon.
“I work across the street from the mall, which I still love. Whenever I get stressed, I think, ‘Let me just take a walk there.’ It reminds me of the first time I was here.
“When I first came here as a kid, I remember thinking, ‘I just want to go back home,’ but now when I say I want to go home, I just want to go to my bed here on Long Island.
“Jamaica will always be my home, but now Long Island really feels like home.”