Two years ago Natasha McShane, an Armagh student living in Chicago, was brutally beaten within an inch of her life. Now, two years on she remains in a wheelchair unable to walk, talk or look after herself.
Her parents, Liam and Sheila, say that her world, once filled with possibility, is now restricted to their living room, where she sits in a chair by the window.
Liam told the Chicago Tribune, on a good day she might smile but on bad says “she just cries”. His daughter cannot speak, dress herself or go to the bathroom without assistance.
Over the last year McShane has had a series of surgeries and struggles.
Her father said “You think she is going to get better, but it actually gets worse."
Speaking from their home in Silverbridge, County Armagh he said “You think, 'In six months she'll be doing this or be doing that.' But the months pass and there is no progress."
Monday 23rd April will mark the two year anniversary of McShane’s vicious mugging in Bucktown, Chicago. At 3.30am McShane and her friend Stacy Jurich were attacked as they left a bar, celebrating McShane’s acceptance into an intern position. They were hit from behind with a baseball bat.
On the night of the attack McShane was left bleeding in the street. Luckily, her friend Jurich was able to flag down a cab and get help. McShane was then hospitalized for months and initially doctors were happy with her recovery.
In July 2010 she left Chicago by air ambulance. She had begun to eat, walk and say a few words.
In Belfast she has surgery to replace a section of her skull. This resulted in a serious infection. Then came seizures and then a build-up of fluids on her brain.
She regressed quickly and soon she was unable to walk or speak.
Last summer McShane has a metal plate put in her head and in October doctors discovered her hip was broken. They were unsure whether this had happened since or during the attack. This resulted in another two months in hospital.
Liam said “No speech, no walking, the hip broken, in the hospital and laid up on medication…It's very hard to watch her like that."
Now McShane has just enough strength in her left side to lift a teacup and the only word she can say is “Shin”. No one knows what she’s trying to say.
Her father said “Shin could mean a hundred things.”
They now use flashcards to communicate with their daughter. Sometimes she points to what she wants but they’re not sure if she remembers her old life or understands what has happened to her.
All her family can do is spend time with her. Her sister styles her hair, her aunt paints her nails and her grandmother, Bernadette McShane, provides conversation and company.
She said “There’s not much you can do except spend time with her.”
In September they celebrated her 25th birthday. Her grandmother said “We sang happy birthday, and she enjoyed it. She smiled."
As time trundles on the possibility of recovery seems to slip away but her family still have some hope.
Liam adds without hope “you wouldn't get through it.”
After the attack Heriberto Viramontes (33), a gang member, was arrested. Prosecutors reported that he saw McShane and Jurich as “easy targets”. His friend Marcy Cruz (27), who drove the getaway car, was also arrested.
They face 25 felony charges each including attempted marcher and robbery. There has been no trial date set.