KINGSTON, Jamaica – Fourteen-month-old Latiesha Julene Clarke is still oblivious to all the excitement and controversy her entrance into the world on October 2, 2007 had caused.
She does not even know that she was born, at just 29 weeks, in mid-air over Jamaican waters on a Cayman Airways flight en route to the island.
Her only concern these days is playing with the other children in her household and eating her favourite dish of mashed potatoes and chicken gravy.
The Gleaner recently journeyed to the western Jamaica to pay a visit to the famous baby and her mom, Shellesha Woodstock, at their home in Norwood Gardens in Montego Bay, St James.
The 20-year-old mom said she had been doing quite well and was finding motherhood both a challenging and rewarding experience. She’s now working as a practical nurse at Faith Maternity Medical Centre in Brandon Hill, St James, – a job she was qualified to do long before she left Jamaica for The Cayman Islands, but was unable to get.
No plans to return
Woodstock has no plans of returning to the British dependent territory to work and said she hoped to take her nursing career to the highest level possible.
“Life has been good, I can’t complain,” she told The Gleaner. “(Latiesha) has been doing very good as well. I have no trouble with her at all.”
As her mother spoke to The Gleaner, Latiesha flashed photographer, Ian Allen, one of her partially toothless smiles as he snapped his camera.
Many Jamaicans will remember the story of the 19-year-old woman who had gone to a hospital in The Cayman Islands while in labour, but was told by medical staff that she should return to Jamaica to have her baby.
Woodstock was working in the islands as a housekeeper for about a year at the time. She later gave birth to her daughter on the floor of Flight 600, approximately 10 minutes after take-off.
“I still feel so ashamed about the whole thing,” she said. “I still don’t like when people ask me about it because I don’t want to be known as the mother who had her baby on a plane.”
No assistance or contact
What concerns the young mother even more is the fact that, despite a public apology last year, she said The Cayman Islands government had still not made any effort to provide her and baby with any form of assistance.
“They just leave us like that. No one even called me directly to say sorry. I have never had a conversation with anyone from the Cayman government,” she told The Gleaner.
After independent investigations by the Jamaican Consulate and The Cayman Islands Health Service Authority, Cayman’s health minister admitted that the pregnant mother should not have been sent home. He further conceded that errors made by hospital staff led to Woodstock giving birth on Flight 600.
Woodstock and her partner, Laflin Clarke, however, are still not satisfied. The couple has been in contact with an attorney, with a view to initiate legal proceedings. However, things have not been progressing at the moment.
Additionally, the proud parents have had to take their daughter, on several occasions, to the doctor to conduct heart tests.
“Doctors told me there may be something wrong with a vessel in her heart,” Woodstock said, noting that medical tests have so far been inconclusive. Latiesha and her mother are scheduled to travel to Kingston in the New Year for another heart test.
However, despite those concerns, the parents said their baby girl brings them renewed joy each day.