Britania Jacques never knows what kind of day she will have. At times, she’s full of energy as she goes about her daily routine as a single mother, college student and case manager assistant for an insurance company helping others with chronic health problems take charge of their health.
But some days, Jacques is unable to get out of bed. Chronic pain and breathing problems from a car accident seven years ago invade her body. Her right hand burns, her voice disappears, and the pains in her neck and back are sharp.
Those are the days that forced her to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and to give up her $1,150-a month apartment and move back in with her mother in North Miami Beach.
“Every day I wake up, I look at myself in the mirror and I say, ‘You’ve literally come a long way.’ Looking at where I came from, I wasn’t supposed to walk, I wasn’t supposed to talk again. The doctors said I was only supposed to be a [vegetable]. Obviously there were other plans for me,” she said.
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“I see it as a blessing especially when I look at other people in similar situations who don’t have it like me, who can walk and talk,” she added. “I feel I’ve been blessed in so many different ways and the blessings will continue to keep coming as long as I stay humble and positive.”
Jacques’ attitude is infectious, said Calvetta Phair, the president and founder of The On It Foundation, who nominated Jacques and son Ezra for the Miami Herald Wishbook. The organization provides computers, computer training and internet access to low-income families with children.
“She is in college and training to get herself back on track,” Phair said. She appreciates parents like Jacques, she added, who “get involved with their communities due to extreme circumstances they are in.”
Jacques, 28, said she has tried to remain upbeat despite chronic health challenges that force her to routinely go on short-term disability at work.
“I look at life like you just have to flow with the way life comes at you,” she said. “You can be doing so great and life throws a curveball at you and all that you have, you don’t have it anymore.”
That curveball came on Aug., 1, 2010, when Jacques and her cousin were involved in a car accident on their way home along West Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach. A car ran the stop sign, and her cousin, the driver, tried to avoid it. She died on impact.
Jacques, the only passenger in the car, wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle. She suffered multiple fractures and injuries that included a collapsed lung, lacerated liver and broken bones that continue to affect her today.
“I have scars just about everywhere,” she said.
She didn’t let that stop her. Jacques went back to school and earned a paralegal degree. This summer she enrolled at Barry University, where she’s working on her bachelor’s degree in health. In 2012, she proved doctors wrong when she gave birth to her son Ezra, a precocious 5-year-old who enjoys Krispy Kreme donuts and RyanToyReview, a popular YouTube channel in which Ryan, a 6-year-old multimillionaire, plays with toys and reviews them for kids.
“It’s amazing,” Jacques said. “I have a beautiful son that they told me I couldn’t have. And I am doing work that people told me I wouldn’t be able to do.”
Recently, however, her doctor delivered some bad news that now has her trying to find another job within her company that doesn’t require her to talk on the phone as much. With part of one lung missing and breathing issues, the doctor told her she needs to find different work.
It’s amazing. I have a beautiful son that they told me I couldn’t have. And I am doing work that people told me I wouldn’t be able to do.
She said the doctor’s advice helped her identify more with the insurance clients she tries to help in her current job.
“These people are literally just like me,” she said. “I am able to take the knowledge I know from dealing with my own health issues and turn it around to help a patient or member understand that ‘Hey, there is somebody here to help you.’ ”
Phair said she is impressed by Jacques’ “tenacity.”
“She always states she is a ‘warrior,’ and her son a blessing to help her heal and recover,” Phair said.
While Jacques would like help to get into her own place, Phair believes both she and Ezra can also use a computer to help her as she works on earning a bachelor’s degree in health.
“We’ve all been through struggles and those types of challenges,” said Phair, who also mentors Jacques and other young women who “take hardship and turn it into something good.”
Jacqueline Charles: @Jacquiecharles
How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (The most requested items are laptops and tables for school, furniture, and accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.