days after a gun attack on a security team outside Scotiabank in Mandeville, Manchester by marauding criminals, uncertainty hangs over the future of a 38-year-old father of three who was shot in the head, ironically while driving past a guardhouse which he had constructed in the area.
To his aching family that structure is now a permanent monument of his near brush with death.
“That guardhouse right there, my son built it, and it was right there that my son almost died,” his mother told the Jamaica Observer in an emotional interview on Tuesday. She said her grandson and daughter-in-law, who were in the vehicle when the projectile came crashing through the windscreen, were the true heroes on Friday, August 25, the day of the frightening attack.
“The bullet came through the front windscreen and when he got hit he fell between the two front seats. He told my grandson, ‘Stay down, son,’ and my grandson held his father’s head in his lap. He put his shirt over his father’s head and said, ‘Daddy, you are not going to die.’ They were there for a while until they didn’t hear any gunshots. My son was in the passenger seat and my daughter-in-law was driving and she drove on the sidewalk with my son to the Mandeville Regional Hospital,” the woman who has no other children told the Observer.
The man, described as a multi-skilled construction worker, electrician and tiler, is now laid up in a Corporate Area hospital, partially paralysed with the bullet, which surgeons have been unable to remove, still lodged in his head.
“My whole life has been shattered. If somebody cut me now, I don’t think I can feel it. If somebody hit me I can’t feel it; my body is still numb. A part of me is angry, but I pray to God and ask Him to take away the anger from me. I feel that I forgive the persons who did this to my son. He is my only child. His sons are traumatised; the eldest doesn’t want to leave his room, he just locks himself in his room,” the mother told the Observer through tears.
“In one week I lost 15 pounds. My life has changed. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t explain it. It is very hard, it is taking a toll on the family, but we have to just keep fighting and pushing and try to go the extra mile for my son,” she said further.
The woman — who said she has been alternating visits with her son’s common-law wife as only one individual is allowed to visit each time — shared that her son, who is able to speak, has found new faith in God since the incident.
“I spoke to him this morning; I prayed with him, I read the Bible, and we talked. Yesterday [Monday] he called me very early and he said ‘Mommy, can you read me a passage of scripture, please?’ and he said, ‘Mommy, I am coming out of this hospital and I am going to gain souls for God,’ and I said, ‘That’s good, son’. And he said, ‘Mommy, I accepted God because only God can carry me through this’,” she told the Observer.
She said on the day of the violent attack she was on her farm. She fell ill and was gripped with a sense of foreboding.
“I wasn’t feeling well. It was as if I knew something was going to happen, but I didn’t know what it was. I felt like something hit me between my shoulder blade and my neck. I was alone at the time, and I sat on a bucket, and for about 15 minutes it was as if I wasn’t there, and then when I came back to, I said, ‘God, what is happening?’ and when I said that my husband appeared and he said ‘Why did you say that?'” she related.
When she indicated how she felt he advised that they should call it a day and head home. However, when they got home the feeling persisted.
“I looked about dinner, but I could not eat. I made some tea and drank about half when I got a phone call,” she recalled.
Her screams alerted the rest of the small family to the tragedy.
“I felt like my whole body got numb. My husband called a taxi and we went to the hospital. When we went there I saw my grandson, his shirt was soaked in his father’s blood. I was screaming and telling people just let me see my child, he is my only child, and they said he went to Kingston,” she recalled. She said but for a woman who told her that her son was still at that hospital she would have ordered the taxi driver to head for Kingston.
“[Later], a doctor came and said, ‘Where is the mother?’ and she pulled me into a room. She said ‘Your son is still talking, which is good.’ After a while they took me to the room where he was. It was as if my feet were going under. He said, ‘Mommy, I love you.’ He called for his stepfather, who he calls dad, and he said, ‘Daddy, I love you,’ and they talked for a while and then he called for his oldest son and he said ‘Remember now, you are the biggest one, you have to take care of the two smallest ones and remember I love you’,” the mother shared.
Now, she said, the family is still awaiting details from the operating team who worked on her son.
They make daily trips to the hospital which can cost as much as $20,000 via taxi.
“We can only see our patient for one hour per day. Two people cannot go on the ward at the same time. It puts a strain on us because we have to look after him and turn him, but only one person can go in at a time. Something needs to change in the hospital system,” the mother told the Observer, adding that because she is unfamiliar with the Corporate Area she is forced to charter of a taxi each time she visits her son.
“One side of him is paralysed. I can only pray to God. When I go to Kingston nobody gives us any form of information. I haven’t seen a doctor until now. Just this morning my daughter-in-law called and said she asked to speak to a doctor, and he said my son responded well to the medication. He said they are trying now to give him some physio to see if he will move his right side, which is paralysed, and after that they will transfer him,” she said through tears, noting that her son now requires diapers.
“I hope and pray that they will tell me something when I go there [Wednesday] and I will get some answers. It’s a rough piece, he is not a person who loves to stand on the roadside, he just goes to work and home, sometimes he is home and nobody knows he is home. As you see him you see a smile. It’s hard, hard, but I can only leave it up to God,” she said.
Late last month detectives disclosed that a woman is among four who have been arrested in connection with the robbery. The Manchester-born man is among five bystanders who the police say were injured during the heist.