A Government nurse, whose 38-year ordeal of seeking compensation and treatment for a life-changing fall on the job has passed through eight Parliaments and seven previous prime ministers, is to be taken up by the fifth administration since she fell.
The Mottley administration has promised to investigate the case of Coral Wilkinson, who remains in excruciating pain after sustaining neck injuries in 1981 while on duty at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Despite a one-off $300,000 payment for vital surgery in the United Kingdom two years ago, Wilkinson is hoping to receive adequate compensation to end a decades-long nightmare of pain, suffering and poor quality of life.
“I will look into it,” Attorney General Dale Marshall told Barbados TODAY this afternoon when he was informed about Wilkinson, who said she had several conversations with him while he was in Opposition.
“And I left several messages recently on his voicemail,” Wilkinson added.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY at her home this morning, the former QEH nurse detailed a litany of woes. She said that her condition has deteriorated so badly since suffering a slipped disc which presses against the nerves and the bone in her lower back, she can no longer dress herself.
Tears poured down Wilkinson’s cheeks as she showed Barbados TODAY nearly half-dozen aids which she has to use in order to function.
These include a strap with a loop that helps her to lift her feet onto her bed, a “helping hand” which allows her to pick up light-weight items and a bath chair she has to sit in to shower.
She said: “I need something to relieve the numbness in my hands.
“I need funds to get all of this done.
“I need to get a nerve stimulator put into my lower back and to get the disc which is out of place in my neck fixed.
“None of this can be done here.”
Wilkinson added: “I have lost sensation below my knees.
“I need help to get dressed. My pain medication has tripled since December 2014.
“I am taking medication for depression, anxiety, pain and sleep.
“The only thing that is working a little is the Lidocaine patches… one over each shoulder at night and one over the surgery scar at the back of my neck and two to the side of it.”
In 2017, the Freundel Stuart administration paid $300,000 for Wilkinson to make a trip to the UK to fix her slipped disc. But the money could not cover all that was involved in the treatment including transport and accommodation, which she paid out of pocket, she said.
Given the extent of the injury, the treatment was incomplete and she had to return to Barbados with the understanding that she was required to go back to England for further surgery, she added.
The former nurse revealed that the nerve stimulator alone which is essential to restore sensation in her legs and hands will cost about 100,000 pounds sterling.
“Then there is the surgery, the follow-up physiotherapy and other monitoring while in England,” she declared.
“So I would have to remain in England for a year and then when I return I would have to keep going back there every six months and that is money.
“I have to wear gloves… I can’t put my hand in water because it feels like they are on fire.
“My fingers have gone from feeling ‘ tinglings’ and ‘needles’ to ‘spears’ going through my hands.
“My fingers cannot identify anything. No nerve supply.”
She lamented that the pain had become so overwhelming that she had overdosed the medication to get relief, “but not to kill myself”.
She told Barbados TODAY: “I am tired of crying. No day is a good day. I am tired of the pain.
“I am tired of being tired.
“I need this case to be settled like yesterday so I can go and get the nerve stimulator and the dislocated disc in my neck fixed.”
She said she had written letters to the Governor General “who has nothing to do with her case” about the hold-up in her compensation case.
She said: “I like to start at the top. But everybody seems to be missing in action.
“The only body who has replied to me was Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson. But he said he could not assist because the case had not been filed in the Supreme Court.”
Her attorney at law, Sir Richard Cheltenham QC – minister of agriculture during the Tom Adams government when she fell in 1981 – succeeded in getting the $300,000 pay to help with her trip to England
But he had bitterly complained that the money which the Government was offering was far from adequate to cover her medical treatment and follow-up process, she said.