Two months after being struck by an automobile and thrown into a ditch along Route 299 near Butterville Road in New Paltz, Gabriela O’Shea is, in her mother’s estimation, just now at the start of her road to recovery.
Discussing the strides O’Shea has made in just the past couple of weeks, Blanca Babits said that up until now the focus has been on saving her daughter’s life, but now she feels like she has Gabriela back. “She’s eating real food again, and really savoring it,” Babits said during a phone interview. She had just finished doing laundry for her daughter, and was on her way to an occupational therapy session. Babits said that O’Shea is not just uttering words, but “sentences, paragraphs” at this time.
O’Shea’s father, Stephen, reached Monday, was anticipating that her casts could be removed as soon as the following day, which will clear the way for much more intensive physical therapy. Both her parents feared the prospect of serious brain damage, but now that she is communicating it’s clear that healing is happening.
Stephen O’Shea explained that Gabriela’s memories are not yet always clear. “In the first week after she started talking, she was excited about Sammy Sosa’s attempt to beat the home run record,” which occurred when she was six years old. Sometimes she has difficulty recalling visitors from the previous day without prompting, he said, but he’s done a lot of research into the brain and is quite hopeful. “There’s different stages to the healing process,” he said. “The brain is a marvelous thing.”
Both Babits and Stephen O’Shea have made sure their daughter understands “how many people are rooting for her,” said her father. “That’s definitely helping her.”
Babits agreed that the community support has been a lifeline. It has come not only in the form of financial support and visits, but as help for the caregivers. “Friends have been cutting the grass,” for example. “I don’t know what we would do without the support.”
What there has been no sign of yet is negativity. “We were warned that there could be some bitterness or anger” in his daughter, the elder O’Shea said, but Gabriela has expressed nothing but a sunny disposition and optimism as she has come to understand what happened to her. “She was confused and afraid at first,” O’Shea recalled, “and it helped once we were able to assure her that she was safe, and being taken care of.”
No matter how long it takes, both of her parents plan on being at her side during that recovery. “There’s no place I would rather be,” said Babits.