The parents of critically-ill Ulster student Natasha McShane have said they are “thinking positive” about their daughter’s chances of recovery.
Natasha, who is being treated for severe brain damage in a US hospital after being beaten with a baseball bat, opened her eyes for the first time at the weekend.
The 23-year-old from Silverbridge in Co Armagh has been in a drug-induced coma since she was attacked 11 days ago on her way home from a night out in Chicago.
Parents Sheila and Liam have been maintaining a bedside vigil for Natasha since shortly after the attack.
“Her lovely face is cut around her nose and mouth. There's staples — 60 staples — across the top of her head,” Sheila said.
“She's so swollen, and there's lacerations where she was hit.”
She added: “I'm trying to think positive. There's nothing you can do but think positive.”
Liam said: “Hearing about what happened to our girl was like someone ripping your stomach out.”
Sheila revealed that the day before the attack, Natasha’s sister Carla’s hair salon had been damaged in the Newtownhamilton bombing.
And Carla was doing her mother’s hair at home when her brother Joseph rang with the bad news.
“My legs almost fell from under me. All I heard was baseball bat. Hospital. We had to be beside her,” she said.
Sheila and her youngest daughter Caitlin (9) were supposed to to visit Natasha in Chicago today — a trip planned months ago.
Natasha’s parents are staying at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital where Natasha was transferred last week.
Liam said he is prepared for setbacks such as that of a couple of days ago, when Natasha's lung collapsed.
With this type of traumatic brain injury, recovery is often “two steps forward, one step back,” the doctors have told him
“She's not responding,” he said. “It's her body but Natasha's not there. It's hard to take.”
Heriberto Viramontes (30) and Marcy Cruz (25) have been charged with attacking and robbing Natasha and her US friend Stacy Jurich.