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Justice's pace irks father of girl, 12


Published: Sat, September 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


The child may undergo 'Christopher Reeve surgery' to remove her from a respirator.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- The father of a 12-year-old girl terribly injured in a hit-and-run accident says he is frustrated with the time being taken to bring the driver to justice.
"I'm disappointed and anxious," Chung Lee said Friday after a preliminary hearing in municipal court for the suspect, Irving R. Russ of Risher Road, Warren, was postponed.
Russ' lawyer, John Fowler of Warren, said his client didn't show up because of issues surrounding his client's notification of the hearing.
Lee's daughter, Annie, remains in the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital for rehabilitation. She has been left a quadriplegic and is on a respirator.
Her father, of Howland, said he has waited for more than a year for justice. The accident occurred Aug. 16, 2004. Lee said he keeps Annie informed about the legal proceedings. The Russ hearing was rescheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 14, before Judge Thomas W. Townley.
"I tell her everything," Lee said.
"You've got to be strong," he said he repeatedly tells her.
Lee explained that Annie has suffered from depression, which is normal for her physical condition.
"I feel pain in my heart" for her, he added.
Nonetheless, Annie is getting straight A's as she continues her education in the hospital, her father said.
About the accident
Annie was injured when she, her 3-year-old brother and grandmother were crossing U.S. Route 422 at North Road when a dark SUV struck them and fled.
Police allege that Russ was driving the vehicle owned by his girlfriend at the time, Raheema Wright of Warren.
Russ was charged earlier this month with leaving the scene of an accident, obstructing official business, tampering with evidence and driving under suspension.
Russ surrendered after finding out that charges were filed against him. He remains free on $26,000 bond.
Meanwhile, Annie underwent surgery Sept. 1 to relieve pressure on her brain.
She is now being evaluated to determine if she will undergo what has become known as "Christopher Reeve surgery" to help her breathing. The surgery is still experimental and must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine if it works and is safe.
The surgery would be performed by Dr. Raymond Onders at University Hospitals of Cleveland, said Mary Jo Elmo, the doctor's nurse practitioner.
Actor had surgery
Dr. Onders did the surgery on Reeve, the "Superman" actor, who broke his neck during a 1995 horse riding accident. He died a year ago.
Elmo explained the surgery is designed to place electrodes in diaphragm muscles. An electrical pulse is delivered by a device the size of a TV remote. This would replace the bulky respirator.
The procedure, Elmo said, has been done on 18 adult patients with a 94 percent success rate. Annie would be the first child to have the surgery.
Elmo said Annie would become more mobile. "I think it will help her," she noted.


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