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Default Family seeks justice
by StrawberrySun 10-02-2009, 11:29 AM


Thirteen-year-old Paige Welch looks at her arm which was reconstructed from muscle tissue and grafted skin. She has been released from the Boston Children’s Hospital in the US.

The family of 13-year-old American national Paige Welch has initiated legal action against a soldier, six weeks after the teenager lost her left arm during a boat accident in Chaguaramas. The boat engine made contact with Paige’s arm, almost severing it from below the armpit. The flesh on the arm was also completely stripped leaving behind bare bone. Welch’s aunt, Trina Aqui, during an interview at her Arima home, vowed that one way or the other, justice would be served.

She said a criminal and civil suit against the soldier would be filed. A livid Aqui said relatives wanted nothing more than “see the perpetrator locked up and the key thrown away.” The tragedy, Aqui said, had left her niece physically scarred, emotionally enervated and psychologically marred. Praising the efforts of local doctors, Aqui said they “did their best, given the resources and equipment available.” She said during the initial operation, an artery was taken from Paige’s left thigh and connected to her mangled arm to allow blood to flow.

The teenager has undergone eight operations since her return to the US, including skin taken from her right thigh to be grafted on her arm. “Paige is very much afraid and insecure as to what the future holds,” Aqui said. “She’s in therapy to learn how to bend her elbow. A large piece of muscle tissue was taken from her back to actually create an arm.” That procedure left a scar running from Paige’s armpit to the hip. Aqui said if her niece did not make progress in learning to bend the elbow, she would have no use of the arm.

Paige has been confined to home, unable to attend school and can barely manage to do things for herself, including walking. Withdrawn from the world around her, Paige experiences sleepless nights often tossing and turning in bed, her aunt said. “She’s going through a lot of turmoil...At nights, I would hear her moaning and see her shaking in her sleep,” she said. “She has not reached the stage where she wants to talk about it.” Paige’s mother Racquel, who threw herself over her daughter when she saw the pirogue approaching, got a two-inch gash on her back.

“When the doctors lifted the flap of skin from my sister’s back, they actually saw her spine,” Aqui said. She said the accident also left Racquel with a shattered left elbow and very little movement in the back. “My sister can barely bend her back. Instead of an elbow, she has a metal plate and five screws holding the bones together. “Her fingers can only extend to two inches,” Aqui said. Saying that Racquel could not lift a cup of tea, Aqui said doctors told her sister she would never be able to hold her hand straight out.

Because of diabetes, the muscle tissue has not begun to heal on Raquel back. Aqui said it was only when the tissue began to heal that the bones would begin to heal. Both Paige and her mother must take several doses of morphine daily. Aqui said: “Paige has to take morphine every four hours. If she misses, or if a dose is late, she will be in excruciating pain and starts to cry. “During the last surgery, doctors had to give her oxycodon because the morphine had no effect on her or her mother,” she added.

Exorbitant expenses
Relatives have shelled out close to $300,000 just to cover expenses at Medical Associates Private Hospital at St Joseph, Aqui said. Additionally, US$32,000 was forked out to have Paige airlifted from Trinidad to Boston Children’s Hospital in the US. “At Boston, expenses have added up to close to US$200,000 and they keep rising,” Aqui said. Saying the medical bills had put a financial strain on the family, Aqui said relatives were planning to seek the Government’s assistance. She said a local bank account was opened, but it has generated less than $3,000 in donations.

No assistance from police
On the day of the accident, Aqui claimed she was told by two Coast Guard officers that the soldier was suspected to be under the influence of alcohol while steering the boat. The soldier has neither apologised to the family nor has he offered to assist financially, Aqui said. Attempts to extract information from the police have also proven futile.
“Everytime we call the Carenage station, we would be told the investigator is not there or he cannot come to the phone,” Aqui said. “The police and Coast Guard are very gruff and unco-operative.” She said the US Embassy had been relentlessly seeking the family’s interest and had provided them with certain information to assist their case.

What happened:
On August 16, a 28-foot pirogue driven by a private assigned to the T&T Regiment smashed into a kayak carrying Paige, her mother Racquel and her cousin Lance at Scotland Bay, Chaguaramas. Paige’s left arm made contact with the boat’s engine resulting in it being almost severed mere inches below the armpit. The bow of the boat rammed into Lance’s right foot, causing his Achilles tendon to be severed.


http://guardian.co.tt/news/general/2009/10...y-seeks-justice
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