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2004-12-29 01:16:25

Tribune Staffer's Heart Gives Out

Dialysis was hard on his heart, but no matter how tired he was, he struggled up The Tribune stairs. When he opened that newsroom door, he was all smiles.

ALAN JONES, 26, was one of the most courageous, upbeat young men to walk into The Tribune newsroom to ask for a staff photographer's job.

“But you don't know anything about photography,' his stepfather, Robert Jones, protested when Alan told him of his plans to apply for the job.

“I'm a fast learner!' was the young man's confident reply. It was probably this confidence that landed him The Tribune job almost two years ago. He had just the pluck, determination and confidence in himself that Tribune editors like.

Today is a very sad day at The Tribune office, especially in the newsroom, where Alan came in daily to put his photographs “in the system' and wait for another assignment. The assignments could not come fast enough for this young man.

Alan's enthusiasm for a job that he bluffed his way into will always be a cherished memory at The Tribune. “Alan had finally found something fulfilling, that had some meaning for him,' said his stepfather.

Alan died at 4.30pm in the private medical ward of the Princess Margaret Hospital on Sunday after a lifetime of illness. His heart, which had put up such a brave fight to keep him alive for 26 years, just gave out — completely exhausted by the demands made on it.

Alan was born on September 30, 1978 with a blockage in his urethra. Simple surgery would have corrected the problem, but, unfortunately, Alan was diagnosed as a healthy baby who just cried a lot. In other words, he was misdiagnosed.

By the time it was realised that the child, then about three months old, was critically ill, it was too late. A plane was chartered to take him to the Miami Children's Hospital. The corrective surgery was successful, but his kidneys had been damaged by the delay. One kidney had failed completely, said his stepfather, and the second was “severely damaged.'

“He spent the rest of his life in doctors' offices. Three times a year he went to his specialist in Miami for check ups. On his eighteenth birthday he was put on dialysis. He had to go three times a week — four hours each session.'

He received a kidney transplant when he was 19, and enjoyed relatively good health for a year. Although he faithfully took his anti-rejection pills, after a year his body started to reject his new kidney. He decided not to go through the trauma of another kidney operation, and so for the rest of his short life it was back on dialysis. He received his treatment at Renal House, Saunders Beach, but when his health insurance was cancelled last year, he was transferred to the dialysis unit of the Princess Margaret Hospital.

Mr Jones said that his son still had some kidney function during his high school years, and played point guard for two years on Queen's College's senior basketball team.

After graduation he took several odd jobs. For a time he modelled men's clothing for an agency. He then attended the Hotel Training College for two years, but, said his stepfather, nothing seemed to satisfy him until he got The Tribune job.

Dialysis was hard on his heart, but no matter how tired he was, he struggled up The Tribune stairs. When he opened that newsroom door, he was all smiles, ready to go, anxious to perform to the best of his ability a job that he loved.

Each Christmas The Tribune editorial staff draw slips of paper for gift giving between themselves. Senior Sports reporter, Brent Stubbs, drew Alan's name. The staff met for lunch on Friday when they were to exchange gifts. But Alan was not there. The night before he had been taken to hospital, and the next morning, he had sent his stepfather to The Tribune to deliver his gift that he had drawn for a colleague.

The staff were shocked to learn that he was in hospital. They left their lunch and went to the hospital, where Brent delivered his gift. There they found Alan shaking in pain.

He told them he didn't know what was happening to him, but whatever it was he had to get through it. He talked of Junkanoo. Pointing to his clothes, he remarked: “I have my clothes right here; I am ready to go!'

When there was an assignment, Alan was always ready to go, no matter how sick he was. His enthusiasm for work and the dialysis took a toll on his heart. He seemed to rally on Christmas Day. But on Sunday, his heart was also ready to go — and so Alan left us. The young man, who knew nothing about photography, but learned quickly, will be greatly missed at The Tribune.

As his editor, Adam Jankiewicz said: “He was a polite, genuinely nice young lad. I am sad.'

Alan, we are all sad — you were a real tonic to have around The Tribune.

Editorial, The Tribune
December 28th, 2004

 
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