Dou­ble am­putee adapt­ing to life with­out hands

Stabroek News Sunday - - NEWS - By Drey­lan John­son

As lit­tle as three months ago, 37-year-old Mel­roy Pyle, who was awarded a gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ship to study at the Uni­ver­sity of Guyana, had what may have seemed like a clear path to his fu­ture as a Civil En­gi­neer.

The irony of his tragedy is that Pyle, whose am­bi­tions lit­er­ally re­quire him to “work with his hands,” lost both ap­pendages fol­low­ing a work ac­ci­dent at the very uni­ver­sity, while work­ing on a build­ing lo­cated not far from the Fac­ulty of Tech­nol­ogy, where he would have stud­ied dur­ing his first year.

At the time he was em­ployed with M and P In­vest­ment and had been work­ing with the com­pany for a few months as he had taken a year off from his stud­ies to earn money and gain prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred on De­cem­ber 18th, 2017, and three months on­ward, Pyle, a fa­ther to two boys and two girls, ages 11, 9, 5 and 3, is un­cer­tain of his fu­ture, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to his ca­reer prospects.

“Some­times I feel like, yeah I could con­tinue in that field and be a su­per­vi­sor or what­so­ever and a next time I just feel like to change course,” Pyle told Sun­day Stabroek dur­ing an in­ter­view last week. Pyle’s lawyer, Mayo Robert­son, was also present dur­ing the meet­ing.

“I was think­ing pro­grammes where your brains and your mouth will be able to do most of the work than your hands,” he added, with a laugh.

Pyle noted that should he de­cide to change pro­grammes, he would need to seek per­mis­sion from the gov­ern­ment, but ac­knowl­edged that it would also de­pend on the need for the par­tic­u­lar skillset within the chang­ing econ­omy.

“…the gov­ern­ment has need for en­gi­neers right now be­cause with the oil and all these kinds of things that go­ing on right now, the gov­ern­ment, I guess, wants to ven­ture out into the dif­fer­ent re­gions… and to de­velop these re­gions you need en­gi­neers. You need proper roads, you need proper schools, proper fa­cil­i­ties to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple…,” he stated.

On the day of the ac­ci­dent, the crew was pre­par­ing to “cast the beam” of the build­ing, when Pyle came into contact with an ex­posed wire. Ac­cord­ing to him, he suf­fered se­vere burns re­sult­ing from elec­tro­cu­tion, with 14,000 volts of elec­tric­ity hav­ing passed through his sys­tem. He lost one of his hands as early as four days fol­low­ing the ac­ci­dent. He re­lated that he had not been warned that he could pos­si­bly lose the other hand.

‘You never pre­pare for this’

To­day, he still ex­pe­ri­ences pain in those ex­trem­i­ties as well as lin­ger­ing dis­com­fort since his but­tocks were burnt and had re­quired surgery and skin grafts. Pyle also suf­fered a back in­jury when he fell due to the sud­den jolt.

There are things he can­not do for him­self, leav­ing him de­pen­dent on the as­sis­tance of his wife and older daugh­ter, an eleven-year-old, who was pre­par­ing to write the Grade Six ex­ams last week.

He re­lated, how­ever, that he has started to adapt, brush­ing his teeth him­self, and even sign­ing his own name.

“I spent some time in the hos­pi­tal, like three weeks go­ing to four weeks and when I came out from the hos­pi­tal, it was rough on me in terms of my help. I was not strong enough to move around, my body was still weak,” he re­called.

“…There are many chal­lenges, in many ways, but you try to adapt to the new life be­cause it’s like you never re­ally… you never pre­pare for this…At first it’s go­ing to bring all thoughts to your mind and those kinda thing, like you have to adapt to this new world, you have to do things dif­fer­ently, you have to like say things dif­fer­ently, your prospects about life and peo­ple and things change and you see things on a dif­fer­ent ground, from dif­fer­ent points and so on,” he stated.

Robert­son noted that his client is in “re­mark­ably good spir­its” for some­body who has lost both his hands.

“I met with him less than a month or just about a month af­ter the ac­ci­dent and I could not be­lieve that some­body who had suf­fered such a tragic ac­ci­dent was in as good spir­its as he was. I did not see at the time some­body who was will­ing to give up and say that that was the end of his road, and I think that was pretty re­mark­able,” he com­mented.

The at­tor­ney noted that while Pyle has re­ceived a lot of sup­port from his fam­ily, the ac­ci­dent has had a “dev­as­tat­ing im­pact,” ef­fec­tively re­mov­ing him from the role of prin­ci­pal bread­win­ner of the house­hold. He fur­ther stated that while he had ini­tially re­ceived the sup­port of his em­ployer, Pyle has not had a reg­u­lar source of in­come for weeks.

Robert­son will be fil­ing lit­i­ga­tion on Pyle’s be­half against all rel­e­vant par­ties in a bid to se­cure the fu­ture of his client.

“I am look­ing at all po­ten­tial av­enues of li­a­bil­ity along with all po­ten­tial de­fen­dants in this mat­ter,” Robert­son stated. The ac­tual date of fil­ing has not been re­vealed, but Robert­son said that let­ters of no­tice have al­ready been is­sued.

“Our goal is to try and put Mel­roy back into the po­si­tion he would have been in if this thing had not oc­curred, not only for present, but look­ing down the road to his fu­ture, both as far as his per­sonal ca­reer is con­cerned and also as a par­ent, the kinds of things that a fa­ther would like to do with his chil­dren… our goal is to en­sure he comes as close as pos­si­ble to be­ing able to do things that he had planned to do, as we pos­si­bly can,” said Robert­son.

“No amount of money can com­pen­sate for the loss of both hands for some­body who is that young, but un­for­tu­nately, the law does not pro­vide any other mech­a­nism. We can’t re­grow his hands, but we could try through this process to make sure that there is enough fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity to make sure that he would be able to ful­fill the dreams that he had for him­self and that he was on his way to ful­fill­ing prior to his loss,” the lawyer added.

Robert­son stated that they could not only con­sider the present im­pact but also look to the fu­ture, which in­volves con­sult­ing ex­perts on the po­ten­tial eco­nomic loss and the longterm prog­no­sis on Pyle’s in­jury, such as whether pros­thet­ics ac­quired will have to be re­placed down the line.

“…it’s more than just what meets the eye….there is some psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age that is done [when] some­body that is sud­denly in the prime of his life with a young wife and young fam­ily loses both hands. And we have to make sure all those as­pects of his loss are as­sessed, not just what meets the eye,” he stated.

Mel­roy Pyle

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