Gheonie Florival is your typical 6-year-old.
She laughs at just about anything, loves to dress up and wear sunglasses. In her kindergarten class at Oak Grove Elementary, she gets good grades and says she has a best friend named Phoebe who helps her with her work when “she doesn’t get it.”
But after school lets out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Gheonie’s life is different from other 6-year-olds. She has to go to physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy to improve her walking, vocabulary and balance.
Gheonie was born two months early and weighed only 3 pounds and 12 ounces at birth. As she began walking, she was diagnosed as a tiptoe walker; doctors said she was developmentally delayed – physically, not mentally.
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“She was in a cast for six weeks and the doctors were thinking of doing surgery, but I didn’t want to go through all of that,” said Gheonie’s mother, Kedeisha Walker. “She was a miracle baby.”
Now, her tiptoe walking is barely noticeable and Gheonie can walk and run with the rest of her classmates, except she sometimes trips. If she had one wish, she would wish for a scooter.
“I really really want a scooter,” Gheonie said. “I’ve been wanting it since last year and my Mommy promised it to me this year.”
Walker, a 33-year-old single mother, wanted to just give up at one point. She was frustrated and didn’t know how to handle her youngest daughter’s situation. But, her mother, Melita Walker, kept her going.
“It is only me and I have to play the mom and the dad,” Walker said. “I wanted to just give up but my mom reminded me that God doesn’t give you more than you can’t handle so you just got to take it day by day. Now, I love every moment of it.”
Their two-bedroom apartment in North Miami is small and there is not a lot of privacy. In the living room, there are lawn chairs instead of couches and a white artificial Christmas tree is lit with two wrapped presents. When it rains, the roof leaks and the lights go out frequently.
Gheonie and her two older sisters, Giselle Florival, 8, and Gabrielle Walker, 11, share a room with their mom. Giselle and Gabrielle have a bunk bed and Gheonie sleeps with her mom in a separate bed. Their grandmother has her own room.
“Their bunk bed is falling apart so I could really use a new bunk bed,” Walker said.
Although the apartment is old, it is fairly new for the family who moved in seven months ago after their old apartment was infested with roaches and rats, and too expensive for Walker to manage.
“I know why we had to move,” Giselle said. “It was full of cockroaches. It was dirty.”
Walker recently received her green card and has applied for a job at Winn Dixie, Walmart, Taco Bell and Publix. While she waits for someone to contact her, she manages to pay the rent and buy groceries with the $710 monthly disability checks and the child support she receives from Giselle and Gheonie’s father.
He comes to visit them at the apartment when he can. Gabrielle’s father lives in England.
“Sometimes it does get crazy to play both roles, but I am used to it now,” Walker said. “It isn’t easy for them sometimes because they would like to have their dad in their lives, but I tell them that their dad loves them but he can’t be here. I am mommy. I am daddy. They can come to me for everything.”
All Walker wishes for is to be able to be with her family, including her sister and her nephews who live in Hallandale Beach. The rest of their family still lives in Jamaica. She plans to someday have her own home, a car, a job and enough money to take the girls out for weekend trips.
“As long as my girls are happy, I am OK,” Walker said.