Dreams of bright future knocked down

A road accident victim who was declared as being in a ‘vegetative state’ by doctors in Jordon in 2008 returns home
By Kumudini Hettiarachchi and Dhananjani Silva

High were the hopes of helping her impoverished family as well as putting-by something for herself so that she could settle down, get married and lead a comfortable life.

Dreams and hopes held close and a bright future ahead as she took wing to Jordan as a machine operator at a garment factory in October 2005.

Returning to Colombo last Wednesday, 36-year-old Chandrika is not surrounded by heavily-laden suitcases, but strapped to a stretcher. Eyes unseeing, she is now lying in the National Hospital’s High Dependency Unit of Ward 78, unaware of her worried kith and kin hovering in the corridors, desperately hoping that she would smile.

But Chandrika continues to be in a coma, “a vegetative state”, as the doctors have declared in Jordan, oblivious of the happenings around her since that fateful day in December 2008 when she suffered severe head injuries.

Chandrika: Awaiting an operation

Work was over and she and several girls were walking back to their lodgings when tragedy struck. “The driver of a speeding taxi lost control at the traffic lights and hit my sister who was waiting to cross the road near her workplace,” says P.D. Luxman Ajith of Thumbowila, Piliyandala, lamenting that they advised her not to go the second time to West Asia. She had worked earlier in Dubai for four years, collecting household stuff to ease her mother G.K. Charlotte’s burden, for she had toiled to bring up Chandrika and her two brothers as a single parent.

Her contract in Jordan was nearly over when cruel fate intervened leaving her helpless and in a coma. The horrific news reached them on December 17, 2008. Although in a daze, Ajith kept this terrible secret from their mother until he went to Jordan and saw for himself the plight that had befallen Chandrika. He stayed a month by her bedside, returning to Jordan with a heavy heart once again in May this year to accompany her back home.

When the Sunday Times met Chandrika’s mother and brother at the National Hospital, Charlotte, 65, weeping uncontrollably, sighed, “See what has happened to my one and only daughter. I tried to talk to her but she doesn’t feel our presence. They are going to perform surgery on her.”

Morning, noon and night, Charlotte is at the hospital, rushing out in-between to hold Bodhi poojas to invoke blessings on her beloved daughter.

From the time that the family informed the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment on December 24, 2008, much effort had been made to get Chandrika back home after her condition became stable, said SLBFE Additional General Manager, L.K. Ruhunage, explaining that Classic Fashion Apparel Industry, the firm for which Chandrika worked was very supportive while the Sri Lankan Embassy in Jordan gave their full cooperation.

All the while that Chandrika was at the King Abdulla University Hospital in Jordan the garment firm looked after her needs and kept a Lankan girl by her side day and night. They got her brother down from Sri Lanka last year as well. The attempts by the firm to send her back failed because Jordanian Airlines refused to fly her back, he said.

Finally, the airline relented when they got an affidavit signed by her family that they will not hold the airline responsible if anything happened to Chandrika on the flight, the Sunday Times learns. Thereafter, Ajith came once again to Jordan to bring back Chandrika who was also accompanied by a doctor and another Sri Lankan factory worker, all paid for by the firm.

Since the day of the accident Chandrika has been paid her salary, the money being sent to her mother’s account, said Mr. Ruhunage, pointing out that the firm has informed the SLBFE that around 75,000 Jordanian dollars (Rs. 11,969,637) has been spent as hospital bills there.

The insurance coverage that Chandrika is entitled to, is being worked out, he added.

Cannot predict success of operation

We can’t predict whether she will come out of her coma, said a medical source at the National Hospital, explaining that she was due to undergo surgery very soon as she had hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain).

When she suffered head injuries, the doctors in Jordan had removed part of her skull bone to save her life and placed a shunt to reduce the pressure inside the brain due to hydrocephalus. “When the brain scans were repeated here, some degree of hydrocephalus was found again. Further surgery is required to relieve the pressure,” the source said.

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