Against all odds
A SUFFOLK couple's lives were changed dramatically in one horrific moment during an armed robbery on the holiday paradise island of Barbados.Paula and John Martin, of Reydon, near Southwold, were enjoying a relaxing drink at a hotel when local man Darrie Jackson Smith burst in and demanded money and jewellery.
A SUFFOLK couple's lives were changed dramatically in one horrific moment during an armed robbery on the holiday paradise island of Barbados.
Paula and John Martin, of Reydon, near Southwold, were enjoying a relaxing drink at a hotel when local man Darrie Jackson Smith burst in and demanded money and jewellery.
Despite complying with his requests the crazed gunman shot Paula at close range causing horrendous injuries.
For months after the shooting she clung to life and defied doctors who had prepared her family for the worst.
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Paula Bridges, as she was then, cannot remember anything of that day in October 1998.
A memory loss and much reduced eyesight are just some of the legacies Paula and John have been left with following their ordeal.
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Five years later Paula has now married her partner John but the couple will never be able to get back to the life they led before their dream holiday turned into a nightmare.
"Fortunately Paula cannot remember anything about that terrible evening," John told the EADT in an exclusive interview.
"But there is not a day goes by when I do not think about what happened," he said.
Medical experts told Paula that she suffered brain damage as a result of being starved of oxygen when she was shot. They said Paula has made a remarkable recovery but is unlikely to improve further.
"Both Paula and I do not accept this as she is determined to get back to a normal life as possible and we still cling to the hope that she will improve further," said John.
However, the couple have to accept that their lives have altered.
"Paula still needs a full-time carer and she finds it difficult to accept that things she took for granted before the shooting she can no longer do.
"She had a full-time job, could drive, and would help me in my business, so she naturally feels frustrated at not being able to do these anymore," said John.
Paula often recalls to her husband; "I used to be able to do that," when John explains what jobs he has lined up for the day.
It would be easy for the couple to feel angry and bitter about what has happened but they are determined to make the best of their future.
A court case trying to get compensation for Paula because of her injuries was stopped just days before it was due to be heard in the High Court.
"Paula has not received a penny despite all the injuries she received. We had to stop the court case against the holiday company as we were told that if we had lost it would cost at least £69,000 in legal fees and that would have meant we would have lost our house so we had no choice," said John.
A year after the shooting the couple returned to Barbados where Paula was able to give evidence against the man who shot her. After Smith's conviction the couple were married on the Caribbean island.
The years following the shooting have seen John struck down with cancer of the bladder but once again the couple have shown tremendous courage and determination in dealing with the situation.
"It was another difficult time for us when I was first diagnosed with cancer and again Paula felt frustrated at not being able to support me more.
"The doctors removed a tumour and for a while we thought that was that but last New Year the symptoms returned," said John.
Surgeons have since removed John's bladder and he is making a fine recovery.
"For the first time since the shooting and my illness we managed to go on holiday together this year. We will never be able to get back to how things used to be but we will not give up.
"I still have my engineering business and Paula is determined to make the best of every opportunity presented to her," said John.
The couple have many friends and family in the Reydon and Southwold areas and can look forward to plenty of support as they continue to rebuild their shattered lives.