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Donations help sustain Bloomingdale library attack victim

RUSKIN

Receiving what her mother said is one of the single largest donations to date, the family of the Bloomingdale library attack victim learned in a letter this week that South Bay Hospital will provide a year of VitalStim speech therapy for only $50 a month. The speech therapy at South Bay, which costs $10,688 for a year of treatment, uses electrical currents to stimulate the throat muscles and vocal cords, strengthening the muscles and retraining the brain so patients can speak and eat with ease. To swallow, the young woman squeezes all of her upper-body muscles and even her legs, which exhausts her, the victim's mother said.

The latest donation caps a fruitful summer of fundraisers for the young woman, whose attack and rape outside the Bloomingdale library more than three years ago left her unable to talk, walk, see or eat.

A charity golf event on July 10 brought in $10,000, while the annual Keep An Angel Home BBQ, also held last month, raised an additional $30,000 in donations for the young woman's treatment. Next month, the proceeds from a local road race will benefit her.

Now 21, the young woman is making significant progress in her recovery, her family said. They can tell what she's feeling from the noises she makes or how she scrunches her legs together. She can drink some water and eat pudding.

"Every day she is getting better and better. Now we have peace because this is exactly the treatment she needed," her mother said.

But her progress was in jeopardy because her current age presented a problem.

When the young woman turned 21 in April she had to transition from Medicaid Services, which covers all medical costs, to the Aged and Disabled Adult Medicaid waiver. The shift threatened the progress she had made, because South Bay doesn't accept the waiver, and intensive therapies are not covered under the new plan.

That's when the community and the hospital stepped in to help.

Proceeds from the summer fundraisers will help pay for the intensive therapies her family says she needs, including the Therasuit program at All Children's Hospital, which her insurance no longer covers.

The victim's sister described the Therasuit as a weighted, full-body suit with hooks that connect to bungee cords. Before the program, the young woman couldn't stand unassisted. Now she can pop up from a sitting position to her feet on command, her sister said.

"Only last year we needed two people to help pull her up. Now we tell her [to stand], and she uses all her own muscles," her mother said.

The young woman is back on the waiting list for another round of the three-week treatment program that costs $6,000.

"I never thought she would get to that point," her sister said. "If you ask the family, she's improved."

The family also wants to enroll the young woman in a program run by Mount Sinai Medical Center that would retrain the muscles in her brain. They are still trying to find a location that offers the treatment, her sister said.

Last year, the family bought a hyperbaric chamber with the $25,000 raised at the barbecue. The chamber delivers pure oxygen to the young woman's blood cells and brain cells to help them regrow, her sister said.

Kendrick Morris assaulted the then East Bay High School senior as she put books in the after-hours drop box at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library in April 2008. In May, a judge sentenced Morris, who was 16 at the time, to 65 years in prison for the crime.

Biz Carson can be reached at ecarson@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

. Fast facts

How to help

Financial donations can be made payable to "Bloomingdale Library Assault Victim Trust." Drop off or mail checks to Bank of Tampa, Trust Department, 601 Bayshore Blvd., Suite 830, Tampa, FL 33606. Checks also may be dropped off at any SunTrust Bank.

River of Life's

Run 4 Life 5K

When: 8 a.m. Sept. 3

Where: Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Road, Riverview, FL

Cost: $10 for kids 9 and under, $25 for ages 10 and over. All proceeds benefit the Bloomingdale library assault victim.

More information: Race starts at 9 a.m. Race day registration and packet pickup begins at 8 a.m. Prizes will be awarded to the top three in each of the following age groups: 9 and under; 10-14; 15-19; 20-24; 25-29; 30-34; 35-39; 40-44; 45-49; 50-54; 55-59; 60-64; 65 and over.

Donations help sustain Bloomingdale library attack victim 08/11/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 11, 2011 4:31am]
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