Armagh attack victim takes first steps towards recovery

Image caption,
Natasha McShane is from Silverbridge, County Armagh

The Northern Ireland student left in a coma after she was attacked with a metal baseball bat in America has begun to walk, talk and breathe on her own.

Natasha McShane, 23, from Silverbridge in County Armagh, was attacked as she returned home from a night out with a friend in Chicago on 23 April.

Two people have been charged with attempted murder.

The hospital has said Natasha has improved. Her grandmother, Bernadette, said it was great to have good news.

"It is exactly seven weeks tonight since we heard about the attack," she said.

"Natasha is now able to speak a few words. Last week they put the phone to her ear and she was able to say hello to me. It was lovely just to hear her. It was such a relief.

"It is a sign that she will be able to talk."

Natasha is being treated at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Her parents, Liam and Sheila, her brother and her aunt are at her side.

Bernadette McShane said Natasha was able to speak more words every day and has begun to slowly eat solid food. She was able to have her first sip of tea earlier this week.

"Anyone who knows Natasha knows that anything she goes to do, she puts in 110%," she said.

"That's the type of girl she is. She's been working very hard to overcome those difficulties."

'Positive response'

In a statement released by the rehabilitation unit, her family said that she had made a positive response to the speech, occupational and physical therapies administered by the hospital staff.

When she first got to the hospital she was unable to talk, walk or move her arms.

"Today, she is walking with assistance, has started to use her arms for functional tasks and has begun to talk," the statement said.

The statement also noted that a tube to help her breathe had been removed and she is now breathing on her own and slowly learning to eat and drink.

But there is still no clear time frame on when she could return to her home in Northern Ireland.

"We are mindful that the road ahead of her will be long and hard. ... Nevertheless we are extremely hopeful that we will eventually get our beautiful daughter back to a place where she will be able to lead a full, meaningful and independent life," the statement said.

Natasha, a former Queen's University student, and her friend Stacy Jurich, were attacked from behind and struck on the back of their heads with a baseball bat.

Miss Jurich was released from hospital shortly after the assault.

Heriberto Viramontes, 31, and his alleged accomplice, Marcy Cruz, 25, have been charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery and other charges.

They are both being held without bail.

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