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Still feeling the pain

Sanka Price

Still feeling the pain

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AT 74 YEARS OLD, Miriam Denny should be enjoying her retirement to the fullest. She should be able to relax and relish life on her own terms, at her own pace.
But she can’t.
Instead, every day this mother of two has to cope with agonizing pain in her face. That pain is the result of being shot between the eyes ten years ago
in the attempted armed robbery of the now defunct Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s (CIBC) Rock Dundo, St Michael branch.
But even worse than the physical discomfort Miriam must live with daily, is her grave disappointment at not being compensated for her disabling injuries.
A tearful Miriam said the way the matter has dragged on makes her feel she was the criminal who robbed the bank and is being punished, as against being the innocent victim seriously injured in the crossfire.
Recounting what happened that fateful morning of Thursday, May 23, 2002, the Grazettes, St Michael woman said she was in the queue speaking to another woman when someone shouted: “Get down, get down!”
She continued: “When I looked I saw two men, one with a gun; I didn’t look to see what else was happening. I went down and was praying when I went down.
“A mind told me to put my hand under my chin and the bag under my stomach. So I had the cheque between my fingers on the ground and my hand was under my chin [so it would not be flat on the ground].
“[My eyes were closed and] I was praying. Then I heard a lady’s voice holler out, ‘Call the ambulance, a woman bleeding’. When I opened my eyes I saw blood coming down my face. When I hold up I saw more blood . . . . When I look at my hand my fingers were stiff and black and the cheque was full of blood.
“I holler out to call my daughter; told them where she worked and her name, and continued to pray.”
 Miriam said she never heard a gunshot.
“Funny enough, I didn’t feel anything either,” she said, shaking her head as if amazed at how the events unfolded.
Her next indication that she was seriously hurt was when Dr Ahmad Mohamad came from the nearby medical office he shared with her doctor, Adrian Lorde. He lay on the floor next to her and asked if she wore dentures. She said no, then realized some of her teeth were scattered on the floor.
Soon after that she was whisked away by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). There she learnt that the bullet struck her between the nose and left eye, travelled down through the roof of the mouth via her nasal passage, smashed into the right jaw shattering bone and scattering upper and lower teeth. The bullet exited the jaw and slammed into her right hand which was on her chin, irreparably damaging it.
That Miriam survived that gunshot wound is a blessing, but the impact on her life has been profound. The once agile pensioner – who liked walking and sewed clothes for herself and her grands, plus did intricate embroidery on cushions to supplement her income – has severe challenges with her vision and had lens implants done on her eyes in the United States in 2007.
Though those two operations have helped improve her vision, they do not alleviate the intense headaches she persistently gets.
“I does fall down all over the place,” she said. “Right across here (pointing to her forehead) I does be giddy, giddy all the time.”
Because of these falls she has been advised not to walk anywhere on her own. Even as she walks around her humble home, she constantly holds onto chair backs for support.
Another result of the gunshot wound is her loss of smell. Now she can no longer cook unless she stands and watches the food to ensure it does not burn.
As her tongue was damaged by the bullet, Miriam talks with a slight impediment and has difficulty pronouncing some words.
She lost eight teeth too, leaving a gaping space in the upper and lower right jaw of her mouth.
So severe was the damage to her mouth that for several months afterward, she could eat only soft liquefied foods through a straw.
Miriam also had to undergo nearly a year of physical therapy on her hand “to get the fingers to bend as they were stiff”. During that time she had to live with her sister in Christ Church as she could not bathe or do very much for herself. At one point, while living at her sister’s house, she even had to take a taxi to and from the QEH four days a week for various treatments.
“I shouldn’t have to be going through this all like now. The bank should have just said whenever my attorney ready, everything settle . . . . I tell my lawyer last month that I feel as if I went into the bank to rob the bank and get shoot – it is my fault,” she said, bursting into tears.
“I was dealing with CIBC (now FirstCaribbean) bank from 1972. I was not only going to change a cheque, I had a fixed deposit with CIBC bank . . . . If I wasn’t a Christian . . . ,” she said, her voice trailing off with tears flowing again.
What has Miriam so upset too is that the bullet which injured her was reportedly not fired from the robber’s gun, but by someone who was said to be connected to the bank’s security. It apparently ricocheted off the wall and into her face.
The irony of this sad situation is that the would-be robbers ran out of the bank when the shooting started and left the loot behind. They were quickly apprehended by police, tried and jailed. So the bank didn’t lose a penny. Yet Miriam has not received a cent.
Efforts to reach her attorney, to find out what stage the case was at, were unsuccessful.
The bank too was a dead end. Quizzed on why the long delay to settle the matter, FirstCaribbean’s (the amalgamated CIBC and Barclays banks) director of corporate communications Debra King said the matter was “sub judice and we cannot comment on it”.
President of the Bankers’ Association, Horace Cobham – who was actually at the scene of the incident as he was a senior executive with CIBC – explained that this case was between the individual bank and the person and was not something the association would get involved in.
“I would like to think that a lawyer has been retained,” said Cobham.
Miriam prays daily for compensation. But she also thanks God for shielding her from death that fateful day. She may be in a lot of pain, and broke, but at least, she says, she has life.