Deerfield beating victim Josie Lou Ratley undergoes third surgery
Mother, lawyer appear on Today show with video from hospital room.
By Rafael A. Olmeda
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Monday, April 19, 2010
Deerfield Beach Middle School beating victim Josie Lou Ratley underwent her third major surgery Monday afternoon, with doctors reattaching a portion of her skull they had to remove when she was first brought to the hospital, her lawyer said.
Ratley, 15, suffered brain damage on March 17 when she was assaulted after school at a campus bus stop by Wayne Treacy, who was angry at her because of an earlier text message exchange. Treacy, 15, of Pompano Beach, was wearing steel-toed boots as he repeatedly stomped on Ratley's head in an attempt to kill her, according to prosecutors. Ratley was in a medically induced coma and unconscious at Broward General Medical Center for weeks after the attack. Doctors had to remove part of her skull to relieve the swelling in her brain. It was that section that was reattached Monday, said Ratley family attorney Rick Freedman. She was out of surgery late Monday afternoon and will need to remain heavily sedated for the next 24 to 48 hours, Freedman said.
Earlier in the day, Ratley, 15, shook her head "no" for the first time, another small but positive early sign of recovery, said Freedman. Monday's reconstructive surgery is largely cosmetic but still major, he said. Other signs, however, point to a difficult road ahead. She is still unable to work the muscles in her right hand to hold a pen or crayon. She's tasted juice and applesauce, but can't swallow significant amounts. And although she regained consciousness, she still cannot speak.
Freedman and Hilda Gotay, Ratley's mother, went on the "Today" show Monday morning and said Ratley still doesn't appear to know what happened to her. In video taken with the TV show's camera, Ratley is shown in a wheelchair at Broward General Medical Center. She seems disoriented at some points, distraught and in pain at others. "She's confused," Gotay said. "She does not know why she's here." She said Ratley suffers from headaches and often cries. The video shows her sitting up and being pushed in a wheelchair by her mother through hospital hallways. She sometimes wears a Miami Dolphins cap. There is no motion evident on her right side, an effect of the brain damage doctors say she suffered in the beating.
Treacy was in magistrate court over the weekend and will be charged as an adult with first-degree attempted murder. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. During the March 17 text message exchange, Ratley angered Treacy by making a reference to his brother, who had committed suicide last October. It was Treacy who found his brother, 29, hanging from a tree. Treacy's attorney, Russell Williams, has not denied Treacy's role in the campus assault and has indicated that the defense will focus on mental health issues in the case.
Ratley's case has inspired an outpouring of support from the South Florida community, with several fundraisers netting thousands of dollars toward her long-term rehabilitation. Freedman said donations are restricted and can only be used to cover medical and rehabilitative expenses that are not covered by Medicaid.
At least two fundraisers are planned for the weekend. A group called CandyGram Girls of Deerfield Beach Middle School is holding a car wash from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday outside the 7-Eleven store at 4550 W. Hillsboro Blvd. in Coconut Creek.
On Sunday, a community "Walk for Josie" will be held in Deerfield Beach, with three starting points. Two groups will start at 2:20 p.m.: the first from Pioneer Park, just north of the intersection of Dixie Highway and Hillsboro Boulevard and the second from St. Ambrose Church, 380 S. Federal Highway.
The two groups will rendezvous with a third group, leaving from Deerfield Beach Elementary School at 2:30 p.m. Walkers will finish at 3 p.m. at Deerfield Beach Middle School, 701 SW Sixth Ave. For more information, call John Esposito at 954-415-4678 or Janyce Becker at 954-427-1050.
Donations to the Josie Lou Ratley Fund can also be made at any Wachovia bank. The fund is maintained at the Wachovia Bank at 2989 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410. Donors can also visit fortheinjured.com/josie_lou_ratley_info.asp to make an online contribution.