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$15,000 Donated to Help Acid-Scarred Woman

Charity: Carol Guscott of Jamaica expresses gratitude to those helping pay for her stay while she undergoes plastic surgery.

February 29, 1996|LORENZA MUNOZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Nearly $15,000 in private donations has been raised for Carol Guscott, the Jamaican woman disfigured by an attacker with battery acid, to pay for her stay in Orange County as she undergoes several plastic surgeries.

Guscott, 36, who had the first in a series of facial operations in January, says she is grateful for the outpouring of support.

"I have prayed a lot for some help. I just have to keep praying now," she said from her motel in Anaheim.

Most of the money came from individuals moved by Guscott's story, according to fund-raising organizer Alice Powell.

Powell said she received nearly 300 phone calls from people interested in helping Guscott, including several couples who offered their home for Guscott's stay, although she is not emotionally ready for that.

"Orange County people have just opened their hearts to this child," Powell said. "Carol doesn't have to worry about her medication or [surgery] after-care for now."

Guscott's life was turned upside down when she was robbed at knifepoint, tied to a chair and doused with battery acid by a pair of robbers in her Jamaican hardware store in July 1994.

Unable to bear the sight of her face, Guscott's family shunned her. Her friends disappeared, and she was evicted by her landlord, forcing her to live on the streets of Ocho Rios for months.

Coping with her ordeal has been difficult for Guscott, who described herself as a social person before the attack occurred. She found that people cringed when they looked at her, so she became reclusive, venturing out only when necessary.

But months after the attack, a Connecticut woman vacationing in Jamaica heard about Guscott. Paulette Allen was so moved that she asked her pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Connecticut to arrange for Guscott to receive extensive plastic surgery from a doctor in Orange County who is a member of the church.

Once in Orange County, Powell and other congregants of the Kansas Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church in Riverside organized Guscott's living accommodations and transportation to Providence Ambulatory Surgical Center in Orange. The Connecticut church has been able to raise enough money to pay her hotel bill through March.

Since her first operation and after counseling with a pastor, Guscott says, she now takes walks and goes to a gym.

When people stare at her, she says good morning instead of ducking. She says she has learned to appreciate the little things in life, such as the beauty of flowers and the crispness of outdoor air, which she did not notice before.

She also has become a member of the Riverside church, which has donated $3,100 to the Guscott fund, and plans to be baptized this summer.

Guscott says she also is focusing on her next surgery, scheduled for March 6.

"I am looking forward to the surgery," she said. "Part of my [emotional] healing process comes from having surgery."

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