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Library rape victim must leave rehab hospital

Medicaid officials have told the family of the 18-year-old who was brutally beaten and raped at the Bloomingdale Regional Library in April that she must leave a Sarasota rehabilitation hospital at the end of the month, her mother said Thursday.

The victim is not making sufficient progress to justify the $30,000-a-month bill, the mother said Medicaid told her.

The news came as a shock to the mother, who had hoped her daughter could remain at the hospital. Doctors have told her that therapy is critical in the first year after a brain injury.

At home, Medicaid will pay for physical therapy three days a week. The victim now gets therapy five days a week, relearning how to talk, swallow and move her limbs.

"I don't know how I can handle her 24 hours at home," the mother said.

The Times is not identifying the victim or her mother because of the nature of the crime.

The victim remains blinded by the attack. She uses a feeding tube. She is able to bend her knees.

About three weeks ago, she began suffering severe muscle spasms, which are common among patients with brain injuries. The spasms hinder her therapy sessions.

A nurse, an equipment specialist and an insurance representative are expected to visit the family's Brandon home today and recommend ways to modify it. For example, the daughter, whose bedroom is upstairs, must now take the downstairs bedroom. The bathroom must be roomy enough to accommodate medical equipment. Her wheelchair will require ramps.

The mother, drained from fighting over insurance coverage and caring for her daughter, tried to find something positive in the pending move home.

The victim, who communicates by squeezing her hand, is comfortable with her nurses and surroundings. The mother hopes a change in environment will stimulate her senses and force her to try harder in therapy to gain more independence.

The mother requested 24-hour nursing help but has not learned whether Medicaid will cover it. Changing and bathing her daughter require the efforts of two people.

"I know it will be very hard for me," the mother said, "but for my daughter, I am willing to try it."

She has read of brain-injured patients who took up to five years to recover. She cannot believe that nearly six months have passed since the attack.

"Even her laugh, it is like a baby's laugh. It's not like an 18-year-old girl's laugh," she said sadly. "It hurts to hear her laugh. I can see so clearly in my mind, like it was yesterday, my daughter coming home from school, getting out of her car, her backpack over her shoulder, and saying, 'Hi, Mom.' "

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813)269-5312 or nguyen@sptimes.com.

Library rape victim must leave rehab hospital 10/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 6, 2008 11:29am]
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