Dr Peter Poon King has a dream to see Sea Lots accident victim Ryan Rampersad return to the world of work to support his children.
“My dream is that he will eventually return to some form of gainful employment. That is possible,” said Poon King in an interview with the Express at the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Unit at the St James Medical Complex yesterday.
Poon King has been leading Rampersad’s care with physiotherapist Padidapu Chowdari, fondly known as “Mr Padi”, and the nursing staff of the hospital.
On February 24 this year, Rampersad was one of six people injured in an accident involving off-duty police officer Sherwin Legere, which claimed the lives of Haydee Paul, 28, and her two daughters, Shakira, seven, and Akasha, eight.
Rampersad, 21, is the father of two young children—daughter Naomi, three, and son Nyron, one.
Since the accident, Rampersad had been hospitalised in a vegetative state at Port of Spain General Hospital and then transferred to the St James Medical Complex.
On Christmas Eve, he was sent home to spend Christmas with his family.
Rampersad’s recovery is a remarkable one with even Poon King saying that he felt personal joy in seeing his patient talk and laugh again.
“His (Rampersad’s) head injury is what is called diffuse axonal injury, which means the injury did not entail any bleeding where surgeons had to go into the brain and correct the problem,” said Poon King.
“When one has such an injury sometimes we underestimate the plasticity of the brain or in other words, the ability to bounce back,” he added.
He said when Rampersad came to the unit in July, he was unresponsive and a routine of nursing care and physiotherapy was started.
“He’s now at a stage where he is fully conscious, he’s coherent, he’s aware of what’s happening, his intelligence level is almost where it was before. He can speak, his speech is slurred but he knows what he wants to say and when and how to say it,” said Poon King.
“It was a sense of joy, words can’t describe the rewarding feeling you experience when you see someone bounce back like that,” he added.
Now that Rampersad is more coherent, a psychologist will be working with him.
Poon King said Rampersad still has a few other medical issues to deal with but they are minor.
The goal is to get him walking again.
When the Express visited Rampersad at the complex yesterday he was undergoing therapy and was in the “standing machine” which is used to strengthen his legs and to eventually have him standing on his own.
Rampersad does not have control of his urinary and bowel functions but Pook King said that he is like a two-year-old child at the moment who has to learn everything and will progress from the baby steps.
Poon King said it was unlikely Rampersad will remember anything about the accident.
“In terms of the accident it will be unusual for him to remember, a person with major head injuries have what is called retrograde amnesia so they don’t remember events just prior to the accident,” he said.
He said the staff are playing simple games with Rampersad and encouraging him to listen to the radio and watch television to stimulate his brain.
Rampersad’s long-term memory is good in that he is able to remember the birth of his children, the names of his friends and loved ones and other things before the accident, Poon King said.
Poon King has devoted his profession to service. After studying rheumatology and rehabilitation in the United Kingdom he returned to Trinidad in 1990 and has been working at the physical medicine and rehabilitation unit at the St James complex since.
The unit, he said, was established in 1983 but was in need of resources as it is the only adult rehabilitative unit in the country.
“Unfortunately the service that we offer is just touching the surface, there are so many other people out there who need the service,” said Poon King.
He said there are currently 13 patients at the unit but because of the small space there is a waiting list. The unit cares for approximately 100 persons a year, some severely disabled. Poon King said the length of time a patient stays depends on the response to treatment.
“There is a young man who is here probably about two years, his rehabilitation is still ongoing,” he said. Poon King said requests have been made to the Health Ministry for more resources.
“We anticipate positive results,” said Poon King.