flashbacK: The April 14, 1996 story that was carried in the Express on Shaunel’s abduction from the Port of Spain General Hospital.
Essiba Small essiba.small@trinidadexpress
Sitting in the lobby of the
Express last week Noble recalled the abduction of her daughter Shaunel as though it happened yesterday. Her voice rose because she was still angry, the years doing nothing to quell what she still believes was negligence on the part of the Port of Spain General Hospital staff.
“You know what it is like to just leave your baby to go buy something and get a call asking you if you have your own baby because she missing from the hospital,” she said.
“I got confused one time . Even now I wouldn’t wish that on any mother.”
Originally we met Noble at the bottom of the very steep Celestine Trace. It was a hill that was so steep it was hard for this reporter and a photographer to climb, or drive (the photographer then concerned about the damage it would do to his vehicle) and so she had to meet us half way.
Noble spent three nights pounding the pavement in her neighbourhood and near the Maraval taxi stand looking for her baby — hoping to catch a glimpse of her in a passing car — at least.
The child was returned to the hospital four days later; but to this day Noble doesn’t know who was the person, described by hospital officials as “a red woman”, that took her baby.
“She brought back my child in a dark brown shopping bag and left her on a bench near the main lobby of the hospital.
“If I could remember correctly my child had on clean diapers and there were some things in the bag — like clothes and so on — that whoever took her, bought for her.
“Imagine my chubby child was smiling because she was unaware of the danger.”
Tests carried out by the hospital on baby Shaunel, in the hours following her return, showed that she wasn’t sexually abused and was in good health; Noble wasn’t satisfied. For months after the abduction, while giving the child a bath, she always checked for any bruises about her daughter’s body, just in case the hospital officials missed something.
And now at 39 years old and five children later, Noble regrets that she didn’t have the sense she now has to sue the hospital back then for allowing her baby to be snatched away in broad daylight.
“And to be honest I really can’t remember getting an apology from anyone at the hospital — up to now.
“She said it was ironic that following her incident at the hospital, security at Port of Spain General Hospital was beefed up and guards placed on the ward. Still when she gave birth to her last child, a ‘preemie’, at the same hospital, nothing and no one could stop her from being worried about a repeat of the abduction incident.
“I knew that in the incubator she was safe; but I kept getting flashbacks of when Shaunel went missing.
Noble glanced across to 18-year-old Shaunel sitting on the chair across the room and smiled. Shaunel was listening to her mother speak and seemed clearly amused at the story she told.
“She feel I was making this all up you know. Until we walked through the doors (at the Express).
“I have heard several different versions of the story over the years,” Shaunel said. “My father always joking that they brought me back in a garbage bag...I just never thought the story was real.”
The only physical evidence of the incident, a newspaper clipping of the Express report, was saved by Shaunel’s grandmother. But the years of wear and tear have now made the copy unreadable.
Over the years, Shaunel has experienced some unfortunate events which Noble, as paranoid as some may think, believes were related to her daughter’s abduction.
At age 12 Shaunel was run over by a car — her body tossed into the drain from the impact of the accident, throughout primary and secondary school she also experienced several epileptic seizure episodes and at one school she was even told she was demon-possessed.
For all her hardships over the years, Shaunel has excelled academically and is now attending the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC). Noble confessed that Shaunel and her older daughter are the ones who continue to make her proud out of all her children.
“She got her passes in high school and now she is in university. All through school, Shaunel never gave me trouble.”
The young woman seemed uncomfortable as her mother raved about her academic success.
“Everyone makes a big deal about this; but I am just doing what I have to do I think.”
Shaunel said she wants to help young girls cope when she completes USC.
“Mommy did all that she could but I still needed someone to talk to growing up.”
Noble admits that she was like a “rolling stone” as a young girl and was a past resident of the St Jude’s Home for Girls.
“I have seen a lot of hard times,” she said.
“My life wasn’t easy.”
Shaunel wants to help young people talk through issues they are facing since she felt she never had a chance to.
“My grandmother on my father side practically raised me. She died recently and I am still trying to get over it because we were so close and she always supported me.
“ I want to be there for young people who may need to talk about things they’re going through. I believe that I can make a difference based on what I been through.”
“Not everyone could be a doctor or lawyer.”