Candice Worrell returned to her Couva home last weekend for the first time since the 29-year-old health and safety officer was brutally attacked by a still unidentified assailant outside her Jenexcon Engineering workplace in Montrose, Chaguanas on 20 January 2012.
By Monday, she was back at the St James Medical Complex though. Maybe tonight, if Worrell is adjudged to have had another good week, she will return to her family.
Worrell, a former model and beauty queen, can now open her eyes and look around while there is also limited movement. She can breathe and function without machines too. But she still has meals through a tube and does not speak.
There is no certainty either that Worrell recognises what she trains her eyes on. Doctors told the family that she has not fully awakened from her coma, which was induced by the trauma of a violent assault two months ago.
Her fiancé, Trinidad and Tobago national goalkeeper and W. Connection captain Jan-Michael Williams, still struggles to make sense of his feelings regarding the chaos that descended on his household.
He dreamed about taking Worrell home for weeks but, when it happened, it was a surreal experience.
“It was a little intense,” Williams told Wired868.com. “It was good. But I just had to get accustomed to her being there after she was away for so long.
“It felt like a year that she wasn’t there.”
Williams and Worrell has been a couple for the past five years and they have a one-year old daughter, Nevaeh—it is ‘heaven’ spelt backwards and is pronounced Nerve-ay-ah.
But the tragic circumstances have brought both families closer. On the weekend, Williams also had to accommodate his mother, Ann-Marie Williams, mother-in-law Susan Worrell, sister-in-law Tricia Worrell and his 10-year-old niece at his Couva home.
There was also a stream of nurses who worked eight hour shifts.
It was the closest to normal that life has been in nine weeks.
On 20 January 2012, Worrell had already boarded the first of two taxis needed for her commute home when she realised she forget her phone. She was found by nearby workers, roughly 40 minutes later, unconscious and lying in a pool of blood outside her office with her jaw broken in two places.
Her cell phone was missing and is presumed stolen. Doctors gave her 50 percent chance of recovering from her coma.
“When I saw her, I couldn’t recognise her,” said Williams. “Her face was swollen three times over… She was in the same clothes (as when she left home) but, when I took a first look at her, I thought that wasn’t my girlfriend.”
Since then, progress has been made in inches rather than yards for Worrell and Williams.
As she fought for her life at the Mt Hope and then St Clair Medical ICUs, Williams raged against perceived health care lapses, the slow response from the Chaguanas Police and the insensitive silence from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF)—a claim the latter party denied.
Williams, who had brief professional stints in Belgium and Hungary, initially quit all football duties to be at his fiancée’s side. But he credited his return to Connection for calming his inner fury.
“I needed to keep my mind occupied,” he said. “I don’t know how it is possible but, in a strange way, I feel I am playing with more focus…
“When I go out (on the field), I tell myself that she is doing her best so I must do my best too.”
Two weeks ago, on March 10, there was another small but significant step at the St James Medical Complex.
It was Nevaeh’s first birthday and Worrell’s mom and sister brought the toddler to her ward. During the visit, Worrell, who had previously only exhibited blank stares, suddenly locked her eyes on her only daughter and followed Nevaeh’s movements around the room.
“Every time Nevaeh made a noise, she fixated her eyes on her,” said Williams. “They even thought she was trying to move her hands in her direction. I missed it but her sister showed me photos of her eyes following them.”
The talented goalkeeper is trying to pace his own emotions. Last week, Worrell looked at him briefly, for the first time since the incident, before her eyes again went blank.
Williams’ heart skipped but he is trying not to get carried away yet.
“I can’t say she recognised me,” he said, “even though I know she can see me. The doctors say her mind isn’t connected back yet.
“She is making out objects, which is good; but we have no way of knowing what she understands about what she sees.”
The improvements of the last fortnight have added some swagger to the stride of both sets of family members. And now everything seems to be getting better.
The Chaguanas Police has been in regular contact and Williams praised PC Forgenie and a Senior Superintendent whose name escaped him.
“They are getting some work done,” he said. “They are doing a good job.”
He claimed his fiancée is showing regular signs of improvement at St James. The TTFF has shown more interest too.
There was still no word from anyone on the TTFF Executive Committee but Williams was so buoyed by calls from national under-23 coach Angus Eve and Anthony Harford—which added to regular contact from senior team manager Peter Rampersad—that he is again dreaming about returning to the international fold after threatening early retirement.
At the end of January, Williams helped a young Connection team to book its place in this year’s Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship. He is hoping for a significant step towards the Digicel Pro League crown tonight too when Connection tackles T&TEC from 8 pm at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.
“We just waiting for her to reconnect,” he said. “I don’t want to get overexcited…. I’m always talking to her and trying to communicate with her and so on but I’m trying not to put too much into it yet.
“Not until she says those first two or three words to me. That is what I am waiting for.”
Williams did not have to say the three words he had in mind.