Delali Dogbé, mother of Ghanaian student Kelvin Garner, professed her faith to the Whitworth community Feb. 11 at the Gospel Explosion event.
“He will live,” Dogbé told the audience. “With God’s grace, Kelvin will live.”
Garner suffered a near-drowning experience in June 2009 after slipping on the edge of a pool and falling in, Dogbé said. Garner also suffered head injuries at the time. Since then, Garner has been in a semi-comatose state at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Garner can open and close his eyes, but receives his nutrition either intravenously or through a feeding tube.
Dogbé left Ghana to be with her son as soon as she heard about the accident, and has remained in Spokane since then. She describes her role as “Kelvin’s call bell,” citing how other patients have a button they can press to call the medical staff at the hospital. Since Garner cannot press a button, Dogbé stays by him to ensure that he appears comfortable.
“He cries when I leave him,” Dogbé said. “He knows.”
Dogbé initially stayed in an apartment, but when Garner’s condition became more critical, she decided to begin staying with him at all hours. She now sleeps in a cot beside his bed, and runs her Ghanaian catering business from the family room across the hall.
“Now I stay in his room, and sometimes go to the waiting area to relax,” Dogbé said.
Before the accident, Garner studied pre-law at Whitworth. His decision to pursue pre-law surprised his mother.
“He had been a science student all his life,” Dogbé said. “We expected him to study medicine, but he convinced me that this was a good choice. Once he made the choice, I noticed how much he likes to argue.”
In Ghana, Garner would advise his mother regarding practical parts of her life, such as finances and business ventures.
When he came to Whitworth, Garner would send his mother messages about theories he had learned in class to help her with her small business, Dogbé said.
Dogbé also remembers him telling her about all of the friends he was meeting in his new home.
“He’s an outgoing type of person,” she said. “When he gets close to people, he makes friends.”
Those friends all came together to support Garner through Gospel Explosion, an event put on by the Black Student Union.
The event has a 13-year history at Whitworth, and has been used as a fundraiser for Garner for the last two years.
Gospel Explosion brought together various gospel choirs from the Spokane area, as well as other worship performers such as dancers and other musicians.
“I told the students that I wanted to support Kelvin, and they came along because he’s one of our own students and a lot of people knew him,” BSU advisor Stephaine Nobles-Beans said.
Last year, Gospel Explosion raised more than $3,300 for Garner’s family, according to a previous Whitworthian report.
This year, the event raised another $1,700 for the cause. This money will be used to help pay for various costs related to Garner’s situation, BSU president Gilbert Sandoval said.
“The medical bills are through the millions right now,” Sandoval said. “We’re trying to help his mom and help some of his family members from Ghana come to see him one last time.”
Although doctors have told Dogbé there is not much more they can do, she refuses to give up hope.
“When human thoughts have ended, that’s when God begins his work, so that it’s clear that God is doing it,” she said. “If not for God, Kelvin would have died in the pool.”
Whitworth faculty and staff members pull her through, Dogbé said.
“Mama Beans and others have been so good to me,” Dogbé said.
The international office, Vice President for Student Life Kathy Storm, dean of spiritual life Terry McGonigal and the Ghanaian students have also been influencial.
Although she expresses great thanks to these members of the Whitworth community, Dogbé wishes students visited more often.
“I appeal to those who were close to Kelvin before this happened,” Dogbé said. “They shouldn’t feel bad to get closer to him because he needs their love. He hears, so if they come and talk to him, he will hear. Their love will help him and by the grace of God, he will achieve life.”