THE family of a student severely beaten during a mugging in America a year ago this week insist they regret bringing her back from Ireland.
The McShane family made the decision to move Silverbridge girl Natasha, who had been studying in Chicago on an exchange programme, after being told by doctors she was recovering.
However, since her return the 24-year-old UCD graduate’s condition has deteriorated and she is unable to perform even simple tasks.
Natasha – whose mum Sheila is a member of the Stewart family from Cox’s Demesne in Dundalk – has struggled with infections, seizures and brain shunts, can say only one word with regularity and needs to be dressed and fed around the clock.
Last week her father Liam admitted he regretted bringing her back to Ireland.
“If this happened again, we wouldn’t go home. She’s had setbacks from day one.”
Natasha was beaten unconscious with a baseball bat by muggers as she and friend Stacy Jurich walked home from a night out on April 23 last year.
After the attack, surgeons in Chicago were forced to remove a portion of Miss McShane’s skull after her brain began to swell. They stored it in a pocket created inside her abdomen, a technique which preserves bone until it is ready to be returned to the skull.
The reattachment surgery was scheduled shortly after her return to the North last July.
However, Mr McShane said surgeons at Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast found the skull section had shruk by 30 per cent.
Mr McShane said: “I asked what do you make up the 30 per cent with and they said glue and plates and screws. It required 106 stitches, a big operation.”
Several days after the graft, infection set in and the bone was deemed unusable and removed.
Miss McShane was kept under heavy sedation and given antibiotics for nine weeks. Doctors now plan to use a titanium plate to mend her skull.
However, Mr McShane said he wonders if American doctors could have foreseen changes in the section of skull that was removed or conducted the surgery before the fragment shrank.
“She never really got back to where she was prior to the operation,” he said.
“She wasn’t getting any physio those weeks because she wasn’t fit.”
Shortly afterwards, Natasha began to have seizures and although they are being treated by strong drugs, she has yet to respond.
“When we left America she could walk. She’s lost all that. Before we came home, she had good power in her left arm. Now she can’t write or use a spoon.
“Everybody wants Natasha to get better. I’m not blaming anyone but the two health care systems are very different.”