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I just wanted my life back

Published: 
Friday, May 25, 2018
Woman who won $.1m for corkball blow:
Dr Terrance Babwah.

Six years after being hit by a corkball while sitting in a classroom talking with classmates at the North Eastern College in Sangre Grande, Vidya Jaglal says she is still in excruciating pain and just wishes her life could return to normal and she can be a “normal” parent to her two teenage daughters.

Speaking to the T&T Guardian yesterday, Jaglal became emotional as she lamented she had “missed a lot” with her children.

“They could not hug me because of how painful it is. I am grateful my mother and sister are there to help them with homework and stuff, but as a parent I should be there at least to sit up with them,” an emotional Jaglal, who did not want any photographs for safety and stigma reasons, said, as she noted she can’t even help her children with their homework because of the pains he experiences from the condition caused by the blow.

Simple household chores and gardening are now difficult for Jaglal, who once did massage therapy to earn additional revenue to take care of her family after her husband died through illness in 2005.

The clerk/typist at the Sangre Grande office of the Ministry of Community Development said she was doing the social work course at the UWI Open Campus because her dream was to be a social worker when the life-changing incident happened.

“I wanted to educate myself, also to give back to the country and to do something meaningful for people and at the same time I wanted to look after my children and secure a better future for them, but that had to stop because I can’t handle the stress.”

Although she eventually completed the certificate programme, she cannot do the degree she had hoped to follow.

As a parent, she said it grieves her that the incident has cost her not just financially but valuable parent-child time.

“I was a multi-task person, I would work, look after my children, I have a house in Freeport I used to rent and which needs some work, but since the incident, it has been put on hold. A lot of stuff I used to do I can’t do any more,” she said.

Six years after the incident sleep is still difficult at times without medication and Jaglal said she still needs medical care.

Recalling the incident, Jaglal said she was sitting near the door of a classroom talking with other students when a cork ball flew through the ventilation block and hit her on the back of the head. After the incident, the class was moved to the open campus.

On Wednesday, Justice Ricky Rahim ordered compensation in the sum of $120,000 for Jaglal after ruling UWI Open Campus was negligent in failing to provide a safe environment for students at its part-time facility at the college.

Jaglal said after initial treatment for the injury she visited a neurosurgeon who diagnosed her with severe cervical disk and nerve trauma - equivalent to her getting whiplash from a car accident. Between 2012 and 2013, she was given two separate six-month periods of leave because of the excruciating pain and effect the medication had on her.

Admitting she used up all of her savings on medical bills and transportation, Jaglal said she had hoped UWI would have accepted some responsibility and offered compensation. However, the campus later told her it would not pay the medical claims because the time had passed for her to file them in relation to the incident.

On the advice of friends, she sought legal advice, but the first attorney called $40,000. She eventually sought help from Freedom Law Chambers, the firm of former AG Anand Ramlogan, which agreed to take the case pro bono.

While happy the court had ruled in her favour, Jaglal yesterday said, “I would have loved to go back to my normal life, but we know that is not going to happen.”

Guardian Media reached out to Dr Terrence Babwah, who specialises in sports medicine, about Jaglal’s case. He said while a lot of people may believe she is faking it six years later, a corkball weighs about five and a half ounces and when it hit her it would have forced her head forward, “setting off something like a whiplash kind of thing.”

Babwah said Jaglal “is a classic case of somebody with acute pain which was not properly treated and then she went on to develop chronic pain. He said there is a process called “central sensitisation where changes happen within the spinal chord and brain and that would have caused this chronic pain and they are in pain and its real pain.”

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