Grim strug­gle for at­tack vic­tim, fam­ily

His fam­ily is liv­ing on faith as va­ri­ety store owner un­able to talk, eat or breathe on his own

The London Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - JONATHAN SHER

Po­lice drew the spot­light this week af­ter ar­rest­ing a Lon­don man on the lam since an at­tack on a va­ri­ety store owner, but the vic­tim’s fam­ily has a more press­ing con­cern: Will Ra­jaie (Roger) El Sho­rafa ever speak again or rec­og­nize his fam­ily?

Twenty-four days af­ter El Sho­rafa, 56, was found crit­i­cally in­jured out­side his va­ri­ety store at 216 Hor­ton St., the fa­ther of three young chil­dren still was in in­ten­sive care Tues­day at Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal and un­able to speak, eat or breathe on his own.

Al­though hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials last week up­graded his con­di­tion to fair from crit­i­cal, his fam­ily paints a grim­mer pic­ture.

“He can’t speak. He just looks at us,” El Sho­rafa’s 80-year-old fa­ther Fathi told The Free Press Tues­day. “We don’t know if he rec­og­nizes us.”

A feed­ing tube pro­vides liq­uid nour­ish­ment to El Sho­rafa in an in­ten­sive care ward he shares with three other pa­tients. An­other tube, in­serted into his throat, pro­vides ex­tra oxy­gen, though El Sho­rafa doesn’t need a ven­ti­la­tor. His arms are strapped down to his bed to pre­vent him from re­mov­ing his tubes.

El Sho­rafa has a two-year-old daugh­ter and twin sons who are seven, but the fam­ily has taken the twins to see him only once.

“We’re afraid they’ll be fright­ened,” Fathi El Sho­rafa said. “They kept ask­ing about their dad. We tell them Dad is good.”

It was eight days or so af­ter the Oct. 21 as­sault that Ra­jaie El Sho­rafa first opened his eyes. He can move his head from side to side and move his hands. But there has been lit­tle no­tice­able im­prove­ment since and doc­tors don’t know how much longer he will be in in­ten­sive care. They sus­pect it will be at least weeks.

The sur­geon who op­er­ated on El Sho­rafa told the fam­ily af­ter­ward not to ex­pect him to be able to work again.

His ten­u­ous con­di­tion and doubt­ful fu­ture has been ag­o­niz­ing for his fam­ily.

“We don’t sleep. We are in trou­ble,” Fathi El Sho­rafa said.

They lean on their faith to get through each day and to seek hope that seems so elu­sive.

“To keep my strength is dif­fi­cult. I’m ter­ri­bly tired,” Fathi El Sho­rafa said.

“We are be­liev­ers. We be­lieve in God. We are faith­ful. We al­ways pray for him and we de­pend on God’s mercy. We still have a hope he will re­cover.”

Be­fore El Sho­rafa was as­saulted, he was his fam­ily’s bread win­ner and some­one whose gen­er­ous per­son­al­ity made him well liked by ev­ery­one, Fathi El Sho­rafa said.

“Ev­ery­one in the area loves him,” he said.

The fam­ily is fo­cused on his hope­d­for re­cov­ery, but did no­tice that po­lice in Water­loo on Mon­day ar­rested Jessie Aaron McConnell, 22, and charged him with ag­gra­vated as­sault.

“We are (more) con­cerned about our son to re­cover . . . (but) it is good (po­lice) have ar­rested (some­one),” Fathi El Sho­rafa said.

McConnell re­mained out of sight af­ter the at­tack, and, at one point, con­tacted the mother of his three-year-old child and said he planned to leave the prov­ince. Po­lice haven’t dis­closed de­tails about how they ar­rested him.

El Sho­rafa has been a fix­ture in the SoHo neigh­bour­hood near down­town for more than two decades, work­ing the small busi­ness seven days a week.

A ben­e­fit con­cert and go­ cam­paign raised more than $20,000 for the shop­keeper, his wife and three chil­dren. The fam­ily came to Canada in 1994, through Kuwait, af­ter leav­ing the Pales­tinian part of Gaza.

The go­fundme cam­paign started by Shelby’s Food Ex­press across the street from El Sho­rafa’s shop, has raised $12,830.

McConnell is sched­uled to ap­pear in court by video from the jail Wed­nes­day.

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