Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Three years since she was viciously assaulted in Chicago, and Natasha McShane is still unable to walk or talk

Natasha McShane on her graduation day
Natasha McShane on her graduation day

Natasha McShane cannot walk or talk. It's three years since the once bubbly young woman was attacked in Chicago, leaving her life and plans for the future in tatters.

But her family refuse to think of a future that doesn't include the 26-year-old from south Armagh making a full recovery.

Natasha was brutally attacked in Bucktown, Chicago, as she was on her way home from a night out. The then 23-year-old and her friend, Stacy Jurich, were struck from behind by a mugger brandishing an aluminium baseball bat.

Natasha, who took the brunt of the beating, was left bleeding and unconscious and spent months in hospital in the US in a critical condition.

But her devastated father Liam McShane said that his daughter will never be able to recover unless she gets more intensive treatment.

"Everyone just assumed Natasha got better," said Mr McShane.

"The fact is, she didn't. She can't walk, she can't talk and we have no idea what is going on inside her head.

"She isn't okay and she needs help."

Mr McShane and his now estranged wife Sheila flew to Chicago in the aftermath of the attack which happened at 3.30am on April 23, 2010.

"When I saw her in hospital I was heartbroken," said Mr McShane, who is from Silverbridge.

"You never get over that. Her face was all swelled up – you wouldn't and couldn't recognise her. There were tubes everywhere. She had 15 bags up around her – and that went on for four months."

The young south Armagh woman was placed in an induced coma because of the swelling around her brain and could not be woken by doctors until it had eased.

When she left Chicago by air ambulance in July 2010, she had started to eat again, walk with assistance and speak a few words.

But once she returned to Northern Ireland her recovery took a turn for the worse.

Part of Natasha's skull had been removed by Chicago doctors after her brain swelled and that bone was to be reattached here.

However, the subsequent surgery in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital resulted in serious infection.

That was followed by seizures and by fluid building up around her brain, rendering her unable to walk or speak.

Now she sleeps in a bed in the living room of the family home and, during the day, sits silently on the sofa or in her wheelchair.

In the summer of 2011, Natasha had surgery to insert a metal plate in her head.

Then, in October, doctors discovered that her hip was broken.

"She has had seven operations," Mr McShane told the Irish Daily Mail. "Before the hip replacement I used to take her for spins. But I can't do that now in case it pops out getting in and out of the car."

Mr McShane said he feels more rehabilitation would help his daughter's recovery.

"In Chicago there was 24/7 rehab, compared to here, where she goes to day centre twice a week," he said. "We have a private physiotherapist, but that is all she gets. She needs more."

His focus is getting Natasha a place in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire, which specialises in brain injury treatment and rehabilitation services for patients with physical or cognitive disability.

"We just can't sit here and do nothing. I want to do whatever it takes to help my daughter," he added. "I don't think of the future if she doesn't get better. The only future I think of is her making a full recovery. You have to hang on by the nails."

Story so far

Natasha McShane made headlines around the world when she was viciously assaulted on her way home from a bar on April 23, 2010. Aged 23, she was out celebrating an internship that was to allow her to extend her stay in the US. She was struck on the back of the head and left unconscious by a mugger wielding a baseball bat. Two people – 33-year-old Heriberto Viramontes (left) and Marcy Cruz (27) – were arrested over the attack. They each face 25 felony counts, including attempted murder and armed robbery. Their trial has been delayed due to a dispute over DNA evidence.

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