It is the worst nightmare for any parent. On the April 24th 2010 Liam and Sheila McShane received a phone call, at home in County Armagh, telling them their daughter had been the victim of a vicious attack and was beaten almost to death.
Now keeping a constant vigil at their daughter’s bedside, they spoke to the press, for the first time, about the horrific experience and their brave daughter’s fight for her life.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Natasha’s father, Liam said “I felt sick to my stomach when I was first told…There's a holy shrine, St Bridget's Shrine, we just went up there, me and my son Conor and prayed and had a bit of a breakdown. I knew she'd had an awful bang on her head. I was praying she would make it.”
Liam had just received the news that his eldest daughter Natasha had been severely beaten around the head and back with a baseball bat in Bucktown, Chicago. She was out celebrating her newly awarded summer internship when the University College Dublin student was brutally attacked.
The severe blows to the head resulted in brain swelling and she remained in an induced coma for nearly a month. Her parents traveled immediately to her beside.
“It was unbelievable — we could hardly recognize her,” said Liam. “There were machines all around her bed and about 14 or 15 bags under her.
“They explained to us that they had to remove a part of her skull so that her brain could swell and that they had to keep her in a coma. There was such pressure on her brain that she might have died.”
Through Natasha’s friend, who also attacked that evening, Stacy Jurich and the taxi driver who sounded the alarm, the McShanes have been able to piece together the events of the evening of April 23.
Stacy said that she felt a blinding pain to the back of her head. She was then struck again and saw Natasha drop to the ground and a man running away with their purses. Stacy remained conscious long enough to flag down a cab and give a witness statement.
Liam had a chance to meet the taxi driver who stopped and found the girls. “He told me he thought she was dead — she was covered in blood…He saw her move her arm and leg a little bit and realized she was alive. I shook his hand. He probably saved her life.”
Heriberto Viramontes and Marcy Cruz are now being held in custody for on 25 indictments including attempted murder. Liam and his wife were informed that the suspects had been caught but their minds were elsewhere.
“At that point I was really just too worried about Natasha and how she was doing to even think about these people…You wonder what kind of human being could do this to someone. What kind of animal would you have to be?
“But as I say, our main concern was Natasha, we just didn't have the energy to waste on those people. They're not going to do it to anyone else now.”
Natasha is making slow but steady progress. Now breathing on her own, she had begun to eat and drink and even speak. Liam joked that she was shown some photos of herself and she cringed and covered her head. She is definitely on the mend.
“She's fit to stand now and they're working on her walking in physical therapy,” said Liam.
“The doctors have told us that each and every brain injury is different and that it's hard to predict progress.
“She got quite emotional there a week or so ago and we were wondering if she was remembering what had happened.
“She speaks Irish sometimes although she isn't really talking, she whispers; we're just now getting to be able to understand her.”
The support for the people of Chicago has really overwhelmed the family. At the beginning of June the community held two large fundraisers and events have also been taking place around the State and the country. So far they have raised over $250,000 for Natasha.
“The people here have been nothing short of amazing,” said Liam. “The priests have provided a lot of comfort to us. I can't say enough good about them. Nothing is too much for them, they have taken us in.”
“We're by her bed 24/7. We know it's going to be a long, hard road but we're waiting to bring her home. However long that takes.”
To help click on www.helpnatasha.net.