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How COPD Changed Gasper Griffith’s Life Forever

By Rae Anthony

I’ve written a number of sad stories, however, that doesn’t mean writing another gets any easier. As a matter of fact, it’s even harder to write these stories now, as they’re utterly heartbreaking.

Meet Gasper Griffith, a man with a story that is touching and tear-jerking.

Image of Gasper Griffith
Gasper Griffith

I met Gasper at Constitution Park on Monday. His eyes were extremely yellow and watery and my heart ached whenever I looked at him. The 63-year-old lives in a world of pain, one he seemingly can’t escape from.

“I used to smoke a lot before and now I’m paying for it. I smoked marijuana, cigarettes— four to five packets a day and I even used cocaine,” he confessed.

“I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and now I need two pumps to help me breathe. I’ve only talked to you for a few minutes and my chest is already hurting. I’m always in pain and I cannot walk for long without stopping to rest; this is why I have a stick to lean on,” he explained.

According to cdc.gov, “COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Millions suffer from COPD, but have not been diagnosed and are not being treated. Although there is no cure for COPD, it can be treated.”

Once a proud garbage collector, an unemployed Gasper now spends his days at Constitution Park. He relies on the kindness of others and said it’s all that he can do.

“I don’t have money and I need it. Plus, if I cannot buy the pumps what will I do? I come here to ask people for a dollar and take what I get. I’ve been unemployed for about 15 years; because of the sickness, I cannot do anything,” he said.

According to Gasper, one inhaler costs just over $20.00 and the other costs $14.95. But for an unemployed man, it’s a lot of money.

“It’s very tough on me, it’s not easy at all. Sometimes people help. There’s a special feller who gives me money to buy the medicine whenever I see him,” he added.

The Trou Rouge resident believes that his stubbornness led him to a pit of darkness. He made no bones about it and said that he would turn his life around, if only he had the chance.

“I looked for my sickness so that was my punishment. If I had stopped a long time ago that wouldn’t happen. Before, every time I saw a cigarette, I wanted to smoke, even when someone else was smoking that cigarette. I passed out three times and ended up in the hospital; that’s when I found out I had COPD. I stopped everything the day I came out,” Gasper said.

Gasper’s friend stopped by minutes after to let him know that a mutual friend had died. He was flabbergasted and soon after, became annoyed.

“You see what I’m talking about? She (talking about the deceased) told me she had the same thing but she never stopped smoking. She drank a lot of rum as well. I feel bad because she could have stopped and she didn’t,” he said with the unmistakable sound of pain in his voice.

Although he has encouraged young persons to change their way of living, they simply won’t listen, he revealed.

“They think smoking is the best thing. I could only tell them to enjoy it whilst it lasts because they don’t want to live. They don’t want to hear. I’ve tried talking to them and they tell me all kinds of things, like who am I to tell them anything.”

“The only thing I could tell you is to tell them stop smoking drugs, that’s not a good thing, especially the tobacco. People I know are just passing away one by one with that sickness, there is no cure. I’ve tried everything already, nothing is working.  I don’t want these things again because I lost more in the end. Right now, there’s no hope for me,” he added.

Gasper believes in God, stating fervently that God is his favourite.

“My mother and father introduced me to God. They passed away already but when I’m praying, I still hear their voices telling me ‘continue praying harder my son’. That’s why I pray every day. That’s why I’m still alive I believe, the Most High he’s everything to me,” Gasper said.

We spoke about his childhood and he shared some of his sweetest memories.

“I went to the R.C. Boys Primary School. My parents were hard working people who taught me a lot. My dad was a fisherman,” he said.

“He’d bring us fish after he came from sea and I loved it, especially the tuna. I got half a tuna to eat,” he said proudly.

His mother was a garbage collector, but in his eyes, she was so much more.

“I used to watch my mom when she was working in the Marchand river, and I felt proud because she did something good for the country,” Gasper added.

And so he followed in her footsteps. He loved being a garbage collector and said it was his “favourite job”.

“I felt good about what I was doing and I took pride in it. I did this job for over 14 years. There are some people who don’t want to deal with you once you’re doing that type of work, but it’s important work. Without garbage collectors the place would be dirty and that’s what they don’t understand. And because of what I did, I was able to build my own house,” he stated.

Gasper is an amiable man, his story reminded me that sometimes, we just never know what people are going through.

2 Comments

  1. My brother Gasper, from a great distance away I do feel your hurt; brother, we all
    live in an unperfect world, but not unlike that which has always been from the beginning
    of the world; to search as much as we may it has always been so, to be so, shall we ask
    (could it have been as a test?) so again it makes me think, it might have been for reasons
    design and dressed up differently, methinks.(poverty is not a crime, neither is any illness)
    The Master told us” Blessed are you the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
    “and blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.”
    My dear brother Gasper, I see that you are a humble man, don’t look down on yourself
    because you only attended the R.C. Boys School, so did many of the great ones with us
    today and of yesterday. Brother Gasper, take comfort in the fact that we have all at some
    point and in other ways been there, whatever one thinks or whatever one may say, don’t ever
    blame yourself. hope that those in authority should take note and act, not only for Gasper only
    but for many of the ‘Gaspers’ of the world among us. St.Lucia,”A PEARL OF GREAT VALUE.”

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