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Ryan’s home for Christmas

By ANDRE BAGOO Thursday, December 26 2013

“I’LL BE home for Christmas”, goes the line from the classic holiday song by Bing Crosby, “if only in my dreams.” For the family of Ryan Rampersad, that line yesterday took on a new meaning. They saw their dreams come true.

Rampersad was injured after a tragic accident along the Beetham Highway, at Sea Lots, on February 24, in which a woman and her two young daughters died. He was severely paralysed for several months following the accident, much of which was spent at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital before his transfer on July 23 to the Rehab Unit at St James Medical Complex. His family lamented the slow pace of his recovery and, at times, raised grave concerns over a deterioration of his condition.

But yesterday, Ryan, 21, spent Christmas Day at his family home in Sea Lots for the first time in ten months after being discharged from the St James facility on Christmas Eve.

“I feel good to be home,” Ryan said, in a brief interview with Newsday, at his grandmother’s house at 143 Pioneer Drive, Sea Lots, where he will now reside for his continued recuperation. Like the typical Trini at Christmastime, Ryan has decided to indulge in culinary delights. “I’ve eaten a lot of food,” he said.

“For me, I knew he would have come back home,” said Ryan’s mother, Pearl James, 43. “This is just a stepping stone. We just have to get over this hurdle. This is the beginning of God’s work.”

Outside the one-storey house, even amid the gloomy overcast skies that greeted many on Christmas morning, Sea Lots residents mingled on the streets looking cheerful, holding beers and cigarettes, chatting, visiting small grocer’s shops for last-minute items, discussing politics and sport, and looking on curiously at passers-by. Many were pleased at Ryan’s return.

Ryan had a large Christmas morning breakfast which including some of his favorites: bread with jam and peanut-butter, Suppligen and even some treats including sponge-cake, biscuits. For lunch, according to his grandmother Verro James, 62, he had ham, macaroni pie and chicken. A far cry from the relatively bland mashed potatoes which he so frequently complained of while at hospital.

“He has been eating constantly since he’s been back home,” said Ryan’s mother Pearl said. “We feel really happy that he is back,” said grandmother Verro. Pearl and Verro hugged Ryan tightly, showering him with kisses as well-wishers gathered at the house yesterday. Ryan’s wife Sallyann, 20, of Belmont, and his two children Nyron, one, and Naomi, 2, yesterday were also due to visit him.

Ryan remained bed-ridden, but appeared in good spirits and engaged in conversation. At one point, he volunteered a mobile cell number for this reporter to call back for any further questions. He remains on medication and has to continue therapy to recover from his injuries. It is still a far cry from the man who once worked as crane-operator.

On February 24, the tragic Sea Lots accident claimed the lives of 28-year-old Haydee Paul, and her two daughters, seven-year-old Shakira and eight-year-old Akasha. The three were walking home from a typical Sunday trip to the market when they were hit by a motor vehicle driven reportedly by a police officer. The incident precipitated violent protests which saw innocent passers-by injured and traffic blocked.

But while the focus was on disruptive protests and the tragic loss of life, Ryan’s family was enduring its own private trauma.

Since the accident, Ryan was warded at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital and his relatives said his condition deteriorated to the point that he was 99 percent paralysed despite medical results indicating there was no brain damage or spinal injury. Relatives disclosed that he also contracted an infection known as Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).They asked the State to see that Ryan be sent to a private medical centre. Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan declined, saying the public health sector was more than capable of handling the case.

Ryan was, however, eventually moved to St James Medical Complex.

On December 2, Dr Peter Poon-King, head of the Rehab Unit at the St James Medical Complex, said of Ryan, “When he came to us, he was basically unresponsive. Over the past few months Ryan has had intensive physiotherapy and is now able to move all of his limbs. He’s also alert and aware of his surroundings. Unfortunately he’s not talking yet but he is making sounds. My gut feeling is that he will talk in the not too distant future.” Poon-King’s diagnosis proved true.

Ten days later, Ryan said his first words. His mother, Pearl, recounted, “I said I love you. And he responded ‘I love you more.’”

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