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I’m sorry for what I did
After buckling under pressure, Michael Powell yesterday admitted that he fabricated a story about being a cancer patient at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) to grab sympathy and donations from the public.
Powell, 28, was in fact treated at the EWMSC for diabetes, which resulted in part of his right foot and two toes being amputated in June.
For telling such a lie, Powell apologised to the T&T Guardian and North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA), which the EWMSC falls under.
“I am apologising for all that I have done….the misleading information I gave to the Guardian that I was treated for cancer. I am a type one diabetic. That is what I was treated for,” Powell confessed yesterday.
In a T&T Guardian article on Monday, Powell claimed he lost part of his foot and toes to cancer and needed six pints of a rare blood type for an emergency surgery to save his life as the Blood Bank was out of stock.
Powell, who moves around with the aid of crutches, also claimed he had used up his life savings to maintain himself and was owing $2,400 in rent for his apartment. As a result, he claimed he had been forced to beg for handouts to survive.
Powell’s plight gained widespread attention from the public, as several people came forward to assist him financially and donate blood.
Among those who were willing to offer a helping hand was former Sangre Grande Regional Corporation councillor and East Side Plaza manager Dayne Francois, who pledged a month’s salary to Powell and promised to donate blood to help him get back on his feet.
But within hours of the story being published in the T&T Guardian the NRCHA, in a press release, refuted Powell’s claims as they stated they had no record of him being a cancer patient, he was not listed on their records for surgery and they had an adequate supply of blood at the Blood Bank.
The T&T Guardian, in a bid to clear up matters raised by the NCRHA, telephoned Powell on Monday night and he agreed to be interviewed at his apartment and show all his medical records yesterday morning.
However, when the T&T Guardian arrived at his Barataria apartment yesterday, Powell could not be found. Repeated calls by the T&T Guardian to Powell’s cell phone also went unanswered.
The T&T Guardian then called Francois and asked him to set up to meet Powell to offer him $2,000 in cash and a cheque to take care of his medical expenses and pay his rent.
Powell later showed up at Francois’s Port-of-Spain office at 10 am and was surprised the T&T Guardian was also there. He was asked to come clean on his medical condition in light of the NCRHA statement.
Throughout an hour-long interrogation by Francois and the T&T Guardian, Powell maintained he was diagnosed and treated as a cancer patient. But when it was suggested the Fraud Squad could be asked to step in, Powell buckled and admitted that he had lied to the newspaper about his medical condition.
“I didn’t mean to add in the cancer part …I did it just for the story to be a serious one….to show that I was in a serious condition and I really need help. I want to apologise,” Powell said in his defence.
Powell said while he was warded at the EWMSC his blood count had dropped and the doctors told him to get friends and family to donate blood, so he came to the conclusion that there was no blood at the Blood Bank.
He admitted he fabricated a story that he needed emergency surgery to garner support whether financial or otherwise.
Asked if he had any remorse about misleading the public, Powell said yes.
“I am sorry for doing, what I did. I wanted help but maybe that was not the right way of going about it. I add in a few things that made it sound serious.”
Asked if people had already offered financial assistance to him following his story, Powell said, “All I got was blood donors. Two people offered to donate blood either Thursday or Friday. I didn’t get any money.”
Good Samaritan almost donated salary
Good Samaritan Dane Francois told Powell he too had been fooled by his sad story.
“I would have given you my hard earned cash if we didn’t unearth your lies. You duped me and I am sure you hoodwinked a lot of innocent people also with your untruths. What you are doing could amount to fraud. People are imprisoned for things like this,” Francois told Powell.
Francois told Powell people would no longer have faith in helping legitimate people in need or the underprivileged because of his story.
Throughout the interrogation, several people also called to offer help to Powell, as they had done on Monday, via the T&T Guardian, after the story first appeared.
Powell later wrote an apology letter to the NCRHA and T&T Guardian for his misleading information and the damage he had caused.
NCRHA corporate communications manager Peter Neptune later confirmed Powell was not in need of emergency surgery.
“What he needs is to take care of his health. If this is done the wound on his foot would heal and he would be able to work and support himself. We will provide him with whatever medical help he needs.”
NCRHA CEO Davlin Thomas meanwhile said staff stand dutifully at the gateway between life and death for over 125,000 patients who access their Emergency Department on an annual basis.
“To abandon reasonable due diligence and to malign our efforts and the very character of an organisation that save lives daily is sinful. We are dedicated to becoming so much better,” Thomas said.
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