Thusha Kamaleswaran shooting: Youngest gun victim's recovery
- 25 September 2012
- From the section London
A year-and-half ago, she was lying paralysed on the floor of a south London shop after being shot in the chest.
Thusha Kamaleswaran was just five years old, the youngest victim of gun crime in the capital.
A random bullet hit her and passed through the seventh vertebra of her spine. Her heart stopped twice that night but emergency surgery saved her life.
After 12 months in hospital and multiple operations, she is making a recovery but medical experts believe there is only a slim chance of her ever walking again.
Her father Sasi was upstairs at their three-bedroom council house in Essex when the BBC arrived to film Thusha as part of a news report on a team of detectives who investigated the case and are now raising money for the vital equipment and care she needs.
Sasi was attaching his daughter's leg braces along with a back support before carrying her to the bathroom to brush her teeth.
Like any girl her age, Thusha, now seven, was getting ready for school. She was excited she was going to meet her new best friend Andrea.
"I like school," she said. "My favourite subject is maths." She said she wanted to be a doctor when she was older.
She was shot on 29 March 2011 after three gunmen had cycled up to Stockwell Food and Wine in south London. One of them, Nathaniel Grant, opened fire.
He was trying to shoot a rival gang member inside. Thusha and Roshan Selvakumar, 35, were both shot but survived.
Grant was later caught, along with Anthony McCalla and Kazeem Kolawole. All three were convicted and are now in jail for causing grievous bodily harm with intent and attempted murder.
Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident - the unit that investigated the case - say the three men have never shown any remorse.
Sasi was filmed by the BBC carrying Thusha down the stairs, something he does every morning and evening when it is bedtime.
There is a ramp leading up to the front door and the bathroom has just been extended so Thusha can be comfortably washed, but the rest of the house is still to be adapted for someone with severe disabilities.
Thusha's consultant, Dr Allison Graham at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, said she had to wait three months in hospital while Redbridge Council found the family suitable accommodation.
But six months on Dr Graham, a spinal injuries expert, said she was concerned there was still no stairlift in the three-bedroom property.
She said: "It's not acceptable for a child to be lifted up and down the stairs.
"We might do that with a two or three-year-old, but if your child didn't have a disability, you wouldn't continue lifting her up and down the stairs, so why should that happen just because they're in a wheelchair?"
Redbridge Council said it was doing everything it could to help.
A spokesman said: "It was clear that Thusha required an adapted property to meet her needs.
"Difficulties arose regarding the rent arrears accumulated on the previous property the family were living in. The history of arrears slowed the process down."
But Thusha's father, a shop worker, had to give up his job for a year to stay in hospital with her while she recovered from her injuries.
The council said a ground floor extension would be added to the family's house, which will include a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom for Thusha.
The family though is also worried Thusha is not receiving adequate physiotherapy.
While in Stoke Mandeville she had daily physio, but her father said that back in the community she had one hydrotherapy session a week.
Thusha's brother Thusan said: "(In hospital) she was walking, standing and everything. She had really good leg movement. We do physio now. We help her stand up. But now she has no improvements at all since she left hospital."
A spokesman for North East London NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for her outpatient care, said: "Our physiotherapy and occupational therapy teams are doing everything they can to support the family and their care needs through a programme of physiotherapy and equipment we have purchased.
"Parents are shown how to deliver the programmes at home supported by visits from a physiotherapist."
Fifteen Metropolitan Police detectives and analysts have so far raised more than £180,000 to help pay for vital care and equipment in the future.
The money will go into a trust fund that Thusha can access when she is 18. This weekend they climbed Britain's highest peaks, Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales.
Det Con John Codd, the family liaison officer, said: "It was amazing to be part of the Three Peaks Challenge and to know that it will help Thusha on her route to a better quality of life since she was shot.
"If the money we have raised and continue to raise helps her to gain more confidence and freedom through purchasing equipment she needs to maintain as normal a life as possible, then every step has been worth it."