After more than 35 years of waiting in pain, being driven to the verge of suicide and utilizing the services of at least five lawyers, the wait is over for former Queen Elizabeth Hospital nurse Coral Wilkinson, who has finally reached a settlement with Government.
Wilkinson was walking up the stairs in the antenatal clinic in April 1981 when she fell and damaged her neck and suffered a slipped disc, which still presses painfully against the nerves and the bone in her lower back.
She sued the State the following year for compensation to cover her medical costs, and the issue had dragged on since then.
However, some two weeks ago, she got the news from the Attorney General’s Office that the funds from the settlement to which her lawyer Sir Richard Johnny Cheltenham, QC, had agreed, had been deposited into her bank account.
Sir Richard had been demanding $400,000, which he estimated Wilkinson would need for surgery in the United Kingdom to bring back some form of normality to her life.
However, they settled for an undisclosed sum, which is less than what had been demanded, but more than the $145,159 that Government had been insisting on paying.
Despite three decades of waiting, the former nurse had to hold back the tears this afternoon, as she told Barbados TODAY her psychiatrist would be visiting her on Saturday to help her through this process.
“I should be laughing . . . I should be feeling happy, I should be like, ‘oh, I’m going to England’ and I should be like, ‘oh, let me go and pack my bags’. And I don’t feel any of those things,” an emotional Wilkinson said.
The long-suffering mother, who leaves for the UK on Monday, said she was having anxious moments, which her psychiatrist had explained were normal after receiving such news.
“What is really frightening to me is when I get there [in England] and they call me in to see the doctor, when I sit across the table from him, I don’t know what is going to happen. Will I scream? Will I. . .I don’t know,” she said, as her eyes began to swell with tears.
Wilkinson recalled being overwrought with emotion after she was told that the money was available.
“I was hysterical . . . I screamed so hard that the neighbours came over to find out what was wrong. When my daughter first told me the money was in the bank, I lunged at her and grabbed her . . . I don’t know how I got from the bedroom out here [to another part of the house] and I told her, ‘you know how depressed I was, and you making sport of me’. But she said it was true,” Wilkinson added before holding on tightly to this reporter at the end of the interview, and crying.
Wilkinson’s life had virtually been wrecked by the seemingly everlasting, intense pain from the fall, and the mental anguish she continued to suffer while trying to collect $400,000 from the Office of Solicitor General Jennifer Edwards.
So depressed had she been, so acute the pain, that Wilkinson had attempted to commit suicide at least once by taking an overdose of pills, and had flirted with the idea of ingesting a household cleaning substance.
She had said back in December 2015 that she had raised funds on her own to travel to Britain to have the lower back problem repaired “since that was the worse”, and was forced to put off needed cervical surgery because she simply could not afford it.
Wilkinson had tried all she could to bring closure to her problem, writing virtually everyone in authority, including Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, the Registrar of the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General’s Office and Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave.
While the back-and-forth continued between the Solicitor General’s Chambers and Wilkinson and her lawyers, the matter of payment had remained a contentious issue.
Principal Crown Counsel Roger Barker had in February, 2015 offered her $145,159.70 so she could have the cervical surgery done in Britain, a figure Sir Richard had described as a “meagre sum” which would virtually “condemn her to remaining in her presently helpless condition”.
Wilkinson has said that after the surgery, she will require physiotherapy and rehabilitation in order to learn to walk on my own again.