January 19, 2011

A friend in need

This is Liz, a friend of mine and many other expatriates and Hondurans alike. Isn't that a great smile? This is the story of what happened to her, written by another friend:

Hello Friends of Liz Riggs,

Some of you might know that Liz Riggs moved to Roatan, Honduras several years ago, to make a life for herself in the Bay Islands, after the economic downturn in the U.S. She is well known and respected on the island. Liz has worked tirelessly to promote the island to tourists and investors. Tourism is vital to fuel the economy in Central America, where poverty is the rule to the exception. The service industry, and related industries, like construction and retail, have literally permitted local families to put food on their table and roofs over their heads.

Unfortunately, on Friday December 17, 2010, while working in an office of a real estate development, Liz was brutally attacked. Just after a work crew stepped off the property, a small and crazed man entered. He didn't ask for money or say anything. He beat Liz with the butt of a pistol. Liz is a strong woman, so she fought back. However, the man pulled a knife and started wildly stabbing Liz. She was stabbed three times in the abdomen, twice in the throat, and once in a lung. One of the stabs in the throat went clear through her neck, cutting her airway. The stab to the lung caused it to collapse.

Thankfully, a worker came in to use the bathroom. The assailant pulled the gun on the worker and the worker fled to summon help. When they returned, the assailant was gone. Liz was left bleeding on the floor. The local police, who only recently inherited old police cruisers by the efforts of expatriates on the island, showed with a vehicle. They transported Liz to a local hospital. Liz had angels on her side that day, because the police cruiser had absolutely no gas left in its tank when it arrived at the hospital.

Doctors worked through the night to stabilize Liz, perform a few surgeries, get an airway going, inflate her lung, for transport to the mainland. None of the wounds in the abdomen struck any organs. The wounds to the throat were serious, and a tracheotomy was performed. The surgeon got the wounds to the airway closed, but it has been a struggle to get Liz to breath on her own, and to consume supplements. The crazed man knocked out much of Liz's teeth, and the wound to the throat has prevented intake of solid foods, until recently. This has hindered healing.

Liz is now barely able to stand, let alone walk, or talk. Within a day after her attack, at considerable expense, she was able to be life-flighted to Cemesa Hospital on the mainland Honduras, San Pedro Sula. She had been receiving intensive care since her arrival a mid-December 2010. A few days ago, she was placed in a normal hospital room on her own. Liz is impressed with the level of care she has received from medical staff at Cemesa.

It looks like Liz is going to be okay, but it is still difficult for her to breathe. She is extremely weak. But, with significant determination, in the last few days, she has been able to walk to the washroom, and eating some solid foods, like oatmeal, very slowly. She is on the mend, is doing much better, but still facing hurdles. She must have surgery on her hand to repair a cut tendon on her wrist (she cannot do a "thumbs up" and the extensive nerve damage has caused a constant "numbing" sensation in her hand). Doctors want to remove the trach tube, but do not want to do it until she is able to eat solid foods, a challenge without much upper teeth left. Hopefully, a dentist in the area can get Liz some teeth. Doctors are trying to pull strings to make that happen. It's important for Liz to have significant dental work, so that she can eat more solids, and thereby gain strength, and once again flash us all her great smile.

Liz does have a Blackberry, so has been able to stay "connected" with friends and family, through her Yahoo email and Facebook. Her sister had been able to spend a few weeks with Liz, but is now home in the U.S. with her own obligations.

Incidentally, once Liz was conscious about a week after the attack, she was able to identify her attacker in a photograph, as did one of the workers who saved Liz. The attacker is now in prison, and the Court found that there is enough evidence to make him stand trial. The police have not found any connection between the attacker and Liz. The man was believed to be under the heavy influence of drugs at the time of the attack, or possibly simply deranged. Random acts of violence like this can and do happen everywhere, Liz has concluded. She is thankful for the efforts of officials to accomplish swift justice and get this man off the streets.

Liz's goal is to get home to Roatan, where her home and heart is situated. She has talked about how much there is to do to help people on Roatan and how much she wants to get back here. She is concerned about the mounting hospital bill. Once a week someone from the accounting office of Cemesa Hospital comes to visit her and ask when is another payment going to be made. This inquiry is hospital policy, and surely disturbs Liz, because she can't afford to pay the mounting bill.

The estimates for her current medical care are about US $5,000 a week, then doctors billing, and more for procedures/surgery; she's had a number already, and more pending, and no firm hospital release date yet.

She could use your assistance.

It's simple to donate.

You can go to the Clinica Esperanza link (see below):

Then click "Donate Now" upper left green box. If you intend to donate to Liz, please put her name on the dedication line. The donations are secured through the Network for Good, and the site indicates it's tax deductible as a 501c3 charitable organization. They send a tax deductible receipt to your email detailing your donation.

If you would like to send a check or to use a Paypal account, click the "Send Check" button. (Currently the direct Paypal button on the front page is not working.) On that page, you'll find the US address for checks as well as the clinic's Paypal email address (donateBICHA@yahoo.com) used for making a payment through Paypal. Until the direct Paypal link is fixed, you'll need to copy and paste that email address into your "send money" page in your Paypal account. You can use funds from your Paypal account if you have one, or a credit card, even if you do not have a Paypal account.

If you know anyone who might be interested in helping Liz, if only they knew what happened, please feel free to pass this email on to those people, or local news sources, if you are able to make a connection with them.

Thank you for your consideration.


So that is the shocking story. I think that it was only through a series of miracles that Liz is still with us. Since this was written on January 16, Liz has improved greatly. We were there at the hospital when her first meal was delivered. But without teeth, she had a very difficult time of eating any of it. Liz is also suffering from nerve damage in mouth, face and throat so that eating is like after you've just had your mouth numbed by a dentist.

Her trach tube was removed yesterday and she expects that the gastro tube will be removed shortly. She can talk now! But she is still very weak and is facing at least one additional surgery on her hand, a boatload of expensive dental work, and doctors' followups and rehab work. She initially spent almost two weeks in intensive care and has been in the hospital for five weeks now.

Liz had no insurance though she had tried for three years to obtain it. Liz has always worked to make ends meet but it will be awhile before she is strong enough to go back to work. The medical bills are devastating for her limited budget. Incredibly, Liz has maintained an amazingly positive attitude throughout all of this and is anxious to get back home to Roatan, but the constant worry about this hospital bill is not good for her health.

If you can find it in your heart to pull together with Liz's friends to help her, I sincerely hope that you will. If you are in Honduras and would find it more convenient to send a bank transfer, please contact me and I'll provide you with Liz's Honduran bank account number and you can send something directly to her.

Please help!


Find the update on Liz here.

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