Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Bridesmaid duties beckon for award-winning Natasha

The young Silverbridge woman who suffered catastrophic injuries when she and her friend were attacked on a Chicago street five years ago, has received a special bravery award in recognition of her resilience in the aftermath of the brutal crime.

Last week Natasha McShane and Stacy Jurich were recipients of Victim Service Awards from Chicago’s Cook County State Attorney’s Office.  As Natasha did not travel to the US for the ceremony, her close friend and fellow victim Stacy accepted the award for both of them.   At the event, Stacy spoke of her admiration for Natasha and how she harbours feelings of guilt at the extent of the injuries her friend sustained. She also revealed that Natasha is to be her chief bridesmaid at her wedding in Ireland later this year.  In a statement read to the audience, Natasha’s mother Sheila said they were honoured and very proud that she was chosen to receive the award and revealed how she is “coming on in leaps and bounds”.

This Thursday marks the fifth anniversary of the attack that made headlines around the world and irrevocably transformed the life of the promising 23-year-old student.  Despite sustaining traumatic head injuries, in the ensuing years Natasha has repeatedly defied the odds and continues to make steady progress on her road to recovery.

Speaking to The Examiner this week, Sheila described her eldest daughter as “a wee miracle” and revealed how Natasha’s sheer determination to get better has been the crux of her remarkable recovery.

“She has great determination, she’s pushing herself all the time.  Every day she says ‘I want to get better’,” Sheila explained.

No longer dependent on a wheelchair, Natasha continues to astound the medics and the benefit of regular physical and speech therapy is apparent when Sheila reveals how she can now walk unaided and her speech is improving.

Natasha is also beginning to enjoy a social life again and occasionally goes on nights out with friends.

“Her friends have been very good, even though they have their own lives to get on with.  No matter when they return to the area, they always contact Natasha to visit and they might go out for a meal, to the cinema or for a drive.”

Sheila also paid tribute to the support Natasha receives from Headway, the Newry-based brain injury association.  Its volunteers organize activities and take Natasha on trips and to social events, offering her opportunities to be more independent, which, she says, are invaluable to the whole family.

Last weekend marked another major milestone when Natasha – an ardent Olly Murs fan – travelled with her mother and sister by bus to Dublin to attend his concert in the city.

It was the first time in her recuperation that Natasha had been able to use the public transport and represented another step forward in her quest to be a normal 28-year-old.

“We did it just to be normal.  We had a great night and Natasha was so happy,” Sheila said.

Natasha’s rehabilitation is not all plain sailing and at times her determination gives way to frustration at the reality of her limitations.  This, Sheila says, is tough but support from Headway and Southern Trust staff is helping them deal with such situations.

Looking ahead to October, Sheila says Natasha “can’t wait” to be chief bridesmaid for Stacy at her wedding, which will be held locally.  The girls have remained close friends, keeping in regular contact through Skype and indeed Natasha was able to share in their glory when Stacy skyped to show her their award – a fitting tribute to a deserving recipient who strives to overcome her personal tragedy with such inspirational strength and determination.