In the three years she had worked as a part-time clerk in a Mississauga, Ont., convenience store, it was the first time that Barbara Turnbull, then 18, had agreed to work late into the evening. Alone in the store shortly after 11 p.m. on Sept. 23, 1983, she turned to serve several customers who had just come in. One of them, she later recalled, “came over right away and just fired.” A bullet fired from a .38-calibre gun crushed Turnbull’s spinal cord, leaving the well-liked high school student permanently paralysed from the neck down. Last July a Brampton court sentenced 18-year-old Hugh Logan to 18 years in prison for attempted murder and armed robbery. His brother Sutcliffe, 20, received 13 years while a friend, Warren Johnson, 23, was sentenced to 12. But for Turnbull, now a first-year English and psychology student at the University of Toronto, the struggle to overcome her handicap continues. “I try not to think about that,’’she said of the shooting. “I try to put it out of my mind.”
That struggle has made the quiet-
spoken, determined young quadriplegic the focus of public sympathy. Turnbull temporarily lost her ability to breathe, forcing doctors to place her on a life-support system. Fighting infections, she lay for five months at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Medical Centre while a bone graft to her spine healed.
But throughout her recuperation Turnbull’s fighting spirit amazed her medical team and family. At Toronto’s Lyndhurst rehabilitation centre, where she completed her high school studies, Turnbull learned to manoeuvre
an electric wheelchair -
by pressing her head against pressuresensitive controls and to operate a computer keyboard with a stick held in her mouth.
Turnbull lives with her mother in a bungalow equipped with an elevator
for her wheelchair. She requires round-the-clock assistance at a cost of more than $2,000 each month. “My case had a very high profile and I received maximum compensation from both the Workers’ Compensation Board and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board,” said Turnbull, who now receives approximately $2,500 a month. “Still, it will not allow for what I might have done with my life.”
Her tragedy has made her determined to speak out for the rights of other victims of violent crime. Said Turnbull: “Society’s focus on the victim is usually minimal. We have to find a fairer balance.” As a member of the Board of Directors of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, she will also join the organization’s March campaign to raise funds for - spinal cord injury research. “It took me two years to overcome the difficulties,” she said, “but I have control of my life again, and it’s time to help others in my situation.”
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