A farmworker’s heartache: caring for a disabled wife and their infant son

Photography by Greg Lovett

Nominated by Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County

The baby kicks his legs in delight at the sight of his father coming home from work. Asmay Desir Lucel, exhausted from a day of working in the Belle Glade sugar cane fields, picks up the 8-month-old boy and cradles him.

Asmay’s wife, Wislene Jean-Pierre, limps on the edge of the front porch and struggles to move her right arm and hand. Asmay reads her frustration: She’s a mother who can’t hold her own son.

Wislene, 34, suffered a stroke just a couple of hours after giving birth to their baby, Smaylins. She was in a coma for two weeks and awoke to stroke paralysis and brain damage. She struggles to move, properly communicate and even nurture her son. Some days, Asmay sees all hope slipping away.

At 41, he is the family’s sole wage-earner, now at a more limited capacity. He has had to cancel his usual off-season field work in Georgia so he can care for his wife and son.

The extra burden extends far beyond cleaning, cooking and changing diapers. It extends beyond Belle Glade. Asmay helps support two other children, his mother and two sisters in Gonaïves, Haiti.

“I try to send whatever I can. I’m responsible for them, too,” says Asmay. “We’re fighting poverty here and in Haiti. We’re fighting to survive.”

In Belle Glade, where his family’s small home sits in front of a dilapidated playground that’s missing swings, Asmay survives on a shoestring. He says the “$90 a week” cost for his wife’s therapy is not affordable, and it’s not easy to find reliable care for the baby.

“I have some neighbors who, from time to time, help with my son,” says Asmay, who leans back on the couch as the baby clutches his arm.

He glances across the low-lit living room and smiles at his wife.

“Before, she couldn’t walk or talk, but she’s improving.”

Amid his family’s hardships, he has dreams of financial stability. But he needs a year-round job and a vehicle (he borrows a friend’s car), not to mention the resources to help his wife through her rehabilitation.

One thing he doesn’t need: any more sudden surprises.

“I’m praying to God that I also don’t get sick — I pray God gives me strength to stay healthy,” he says. “I have to stay strong and courageous for my family.”

ASMAY’S WISH

At 41, Asmay Desir Lucel toils in the sugar cane fields of Belle Glade to support his family. But providing for them has proven to be daunting since his wife suffered a devastating stroke shortly after childbirth, leaving her partially paralyzed and unable to hold their now-8-month-old son. Therapy treatments for her have proven costly for Asmay, who had to give up off-season field work in Georgia to care for his family. He needs a year-round job and a car (he borrows a friend’s), and he needs the resources to help his wife through her rehabilitation.

Nominated by: Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County, 561-533-7227

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