By DR KENNETH D KEMP
NONE of us can recall the exact details of the day we were born so our knowledge of that day is limited to what our parents tell us. Despite this, every birthday is a cause for celebration whether someone organises it or we are old enough to do it ourselves. Some, like myself, prefer to travel to celebrate while others enjoy a quiet evening at home with loved ones. Many like to throw parties where food, cake, music and alcoholic beverages are typical expectancies and turning milestone ages like 18 and 50 often triggers the most extravagant events.
In April 2016, the patient featured in today’s report was celebrating one of those milestones, her 25th birthday. She had a week’s worth of partying planned with her fiancé, her close friends, brother-in-law and her sister who was also celebrating her birthday that month. On the night of her birthday, she confesses she became very intoxicated. She drank copious amounts of various alcoholic beverages and partied the night away, laughing and dancing the entire time. As the night wore on, her fiancé became progressively annoyed. They argued and at one point he left without her knowledge. She later learned he had been staring at her the entire night and was visibly aggravated by her behaviour. She, her family and friends were at a bar on one of the family islands and she threw up on several occasions before having to be escorted to her room.
At some point during the night, her fiancé gained entry into her room and barricaded the door. She now divides her life into two halves - the person she was before he entered her room that horrific evening and the person she became after he left. While so inebriated that she could barely lift her hand to defend herself, her fiancé beat her mercilessly with his fists in a barbaric monstrous rage. After he had broken four of her ribs and bloodied her face to the point that she was unrecognisable, he raped her and left her for dead.
Broken in spirit, physically bloodied and mutilated, she laid there unable to either move or speak for hours until the following day when her brother-in-law discovered her motionless body. Her face was swollen, disfigured and covered with dried blood. The little clothes that she had on were ripped revealing the extensive bruising on her body including her breasts and genitalia.
Her brother-in-law came to check on her before leaving for work and when the front door wouldn’t open, he eventually gained entry via a side window. She moaned in pure agony as he wrapped her with a sheet and attempted to get her to the car. Her sister came running to assist and escorted her to the family island clinic where the nurse performed a rape exam. She was then flown to Nassau and spent six weeks in the hospital.
Both her top and bottom jaw were shattered and she had to undergo surgery to have her face reconstructed. She was unable to eat for two weeks and the right side of her body, from her knee straight down to her foot is numb to this day, a condition that no amount of therapy or medication has been able to resolve.
The constant stiffness and neuropathy in her leg, ankle and foot has caused notable gait instability. She has no previous medical or surgical history and was not on any medication prior to this situation.
Her ex-fiancé was arrested and charged with assault but only spent six weeks in jail before being released. He claimed he had nothing to do with her assault and she must have been attacked by a tourist visiting the island so the charges were ultimately dropped.
Unfortunately, a vital piece of evidence in her case, the rape kit performed at the clinic, was lost when it was forwarded to Nassau. After some time had passed, she confronted him but the only thing he said was that he loved her and wanted her to do well. Following this, she suffered with anxiety and sank into a deep depression, blaming herself entirely for the events that unfolded.
Rams are male sheep with large, curved horns and the bible tells us God once asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the altar in allegiance to him. But just as he was about to make the sacrifice, God showed him a ram in the bush that could be sacrificed instead. It was a story primarily about faith and obedience but it was also about knowing that no matter how bad things may appear, God always has a ram in the bush that will allow all of your fears and pain to dissipate.
Recalling that story specifically, this patient held onto the faith that her life would someday be worth living and one day awoke and made the tough decision to stop being depressed about her situation.
She underwent a vigorous phase of counselling and a year later moved to one of the smaller family islands. She started a new life where she met her current husband. They’ve been married for two years and she credits him with initially helping to reconstruct the broken pieces of her soul. But her situation has taught her to always walk with eyes wide open so when she found out that her husband made sexual advances toward her 14-year-old sister she filed for a divorce immediately. She credits counselling for giving her the courage to instantly recognise and walk away from a toxic relationship and the strength to appreciate what may at first appear as a loss is simply a life lesson.
This patient wanted to share her story hoping others in a similar situation can recognise even the darkest night will end and the sun will shine again. She cautions young women to recognise and never ignore red flags or warning signs that the person you’re with may have the capacity to inflict emotional and/or physical harm. She strongly recommends getting professional counselling. She also advocates having fun but drinking alcohol in moderation so that you’re, in the very least, able to stay coherent.
In two months, God-willing, she’ll live to enjoy another birthday but her celebration plans are much more reserved. She’ll have a cake, some great food and spend time creating new memories with the people she loves because, with a renewed outlook on life, birthdays like this are now all she truly hopes for.
• Nicknamed ‘The Prince of Podiatry’, Dr Kenneth D Kemp is the founder and medical director of Bahamas Foot and Ankle located in Caves Village, Western New Providence. He served as the deputy chairman for the Health Council for five years and he currently sits on the board of directors for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation in his role as co-vice-chairman.