Barbados gunshot victim's island return

WHEN Paula Martin was shot and critically injured during a robbery on the holiday island of Barbados, it made headlines all over the world.

WHEN Paula Martin was shot and critically injured during a robbery on the holiday island of Barbados, it made headlines all over the world.

It happened on October 1, 1998, and 10 years to the day Paula, a former care worker at Southwold who now lives at Kessingland, will be back on the island next week to personally thank the medical staff who saved her life.

Paula was shot in the heart and for several days was critically ill and too poorly to be flown home for treatment.

It was only the skill and expertise of the medical staff in Barbados that her condition was stabilised so that she could be flown home in an air ambulance to begin the long journey to regaining her health and strength.

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On Monday, Paula, 52, will be flying to Barbados with her partner Steve to pay a personal tribute to the doctors and nurses.

“I returned to Barbados a year after being shot but because my heart stopped three times I was left with brain damage and did not really know what was going on. I did thank everyone but really did not have much control and was doing what I was told to do.

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“This time it is different, this is really me, and I am determined to pay my personal gratitude to everyone who helped me which is why it is so important for me to be in Barbados on October 1,” she said.

The past 10 years have been extremely traumatic for Paula, who was known as Paula Bridges when she was shot.

She married her then partner John Martin but since then the marriage has broken up.

“It has been a really tough time over the past 10 years. I have been left with blurred vision, which is believed to be permanent, and I suffered from memory loss,” she said.

“As well as my health problems my marriage broke up. However, my health is better than it was and I am determined to look to the future,” said Paula.

She is being helped by her partner Steve and said for the first time in what seems a long period of her life she is thinking for herself and not relying on other people.

“Because I am now at last thinking and acting for myself I want to thank everyone who has supported me. Even when I was badly injured I was aware of all the good wishes from people in the Reydon and Southwold area and I want them to know how they helped me on the road to recovery,” said Paula.

“Family members and the many friends in the Southwold area were important to me then and they are now,” she said.

On Tuesday Paula is due to return to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, in Barbados, which will not only give her an opportunity to thank staff it will also help to bury the past.

“What happened that day changed my life forever but I am determined to remain positive and am looking forward to the future with Steve,” she said.

n In October 1999 Darrie Jackson Smith, of Barbados, was found guilty of inflicting serious bodily harm on Paula and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.

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