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Feb 25, 1998

Stacy Williams gets cat-scan

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In yesterday’s newscast we brought you the story of twenty one year old Deon Smith who continues to make slow but steady recovery from a bullet wound to his head. Tonight we bring you an update on the condition of a much younger victim of a similar incident.

It will be almost one month since eleven year old Stacy Williams was shot in the face with a bullet that was meant for someone else. Since that tragic day on January twenty ninth, the Williams family has been helping young Stacy back on the road to recovery. The bullet, which entered Williams’ right cheek, fortunately did not injure her brain, or spinal cord, but instead lodged in the back of her neck. When we last visited Williams on February third, she appeared to be doing well. But two weeks ago, the Williams family began to worry: Stacy was suffering from a constant high temperature and complained about pains in her head.

Mary Williams, Grandmother

“Just pain in the face and sometimes the hand would just move up like automatically and she say it hurt.”

Fearing the worst, Granny Williams rushed Stacy off to Chetumal. There the little girl was treated for the high fever and was told that she needed a cat-scan. The high tech x-ray would give doctors a good view of where the bullet was and what damage, if any, had been caused. But the recommendation was no comfort to Mary Williams. Financially strapped, she couldn’t afford the expensive procedure and had no choice but to return home with Stacy. But that despair, did not last long. Upon their return to Belize, Williams received the good news that the newly established diagnostic clinic, Universal Health Services would do the procedure, free of cost. So three days later on February the nineteenth, the young girl along with her grandmother left the family house en route to U.H.S. There Stacy was greeted by Dr. Victor Lizarraga, the General Surgeon.

Dr. Victor Lizarraga

“Put your fingers up, watch me, watch me. I will do this. Look at me, I want you to do the same thing for me. Touch my fingers and I want you to touch your nose.”

As doctor Lizarraga did his primary analysis on the young patient, Mary Williams prayed in the background that the imposing looking machine would be able to help her granddaughter.

Mary Williams

“I still had that fear, I still had that fear cause I did not know what to expect. If it was something real bad, I don’t know what I would have done. But I had the fear that the machine would prove something bad, you know.”

It was now time to move from the clinic’s lobby into the cat-scan room. But because of Stacy’s young age and her mental handicap, she first had to be sedated.

Once soundly asleep, the technician was able to get a number of pictures of the bullet and the injuries it caused. The x-ray revealed that there was no damage to the skull, brain or spinal cord, but that most of the injury occurred below the skull. The cat-scan also cleared up a misconception: instead of remaining intact, the bullet had split into numerous fragments.

Dr. Victor Lizarraga

“When it pass the bone, it broke up into little pieces. So you can see a piece here and a piece there. One shot below. See there is more little pieces, more little pieces and that is the last piece there.”

The pieces, however, did rupture the nerves running along Williams’ facial muscle tissue, causing facial palsy.

Dr. Victor Lizarraga

“Push out your tongue, push it out for me sweetheart, push it out for me. You see how it goes that way. The muscles on that side are paralyzed, okay. Show me your teeth. Do this for me, show me. Okay, she will have a bit of asymmetry because some of the branches of the facial nerve down here have also been paralyzed.”

Dr. Lizarraga says without a cat-scan a definite diagnosis on young Williams’ condition could never have been made and her examination is a testament of just what now can be achieved in Belize. To emphasize the accuracy of the machine, Lizarraga showed us an X-ray that was done on Stacy immediately after the shooting incident.

Dr. Victor Lizarraga

“See that fragment could be in the spine itself, or it could be in front or back right. Now if you look at the anti-posterior view, you see a number of little fragments. Because of the density of it, we can’t be certain where it is, so there is already some doubt as to where this bullet is.”

This technology also provides hope that in some cases the life of an accident victim can be saved.

Dr. Victor Lizarraga

“You save the patient, you observe the patient. If this had happened the night of the accident, and we looked at this, right away you know what you have to do immediately right then and there to make the patient survive, to let the family be at ease.”

And no one wants that more than Mary Williams herself.

Mary Williams

“Oh I feel good. I feel good knowing that Stacy is safe. I can sleep better at nights now. That equipment is out of this world. In my eye sight, it save me a lot of grief, but I felt more relaxed since you’ll see it and understand what the doctor was saying. So I feel pretty good about it.”

While Stacy appears to be out of the woods, Dr. Lizarraga cautioned the grandmother that because of the nerve damage, there may still be other problems occurring that the family should be aware of.

Dr. Victor Lizarraga

“If for example you, she start to get short of breath, that means blood the pass cross artery to vein and is causing the heart to work harder. If this happens, then we need to be careful about it. Six months from now we need to recheck and see if that fragment is still there because fragments can migrate in vessels you see, especially around that area that has a lot of little vessels.”

The cat-scan machine is not a miracle, but simply a tool, albeit an advanced one. And despite the clinic’s generosity in this high profile case, cat-scans are still not cheap. Individual families as well as government and medical authorities will still have to make tough decisions on how to allocate their scarce resources. But at least the technology is now available? here, within our own borders? and for now that’s good enough for Mary and Stacy Williams.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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