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Son's Visit Cheers Mother During Medical Ordeal

Reunion: 12-year-old arrives from Jamaica, where thugs' acid attack produced scars, blindness her surgeons seek to undo.

August 04, 1997|STEVE CARNEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

FULLERTON — After three years of loneliness, frustration and painful operations on her acid-scarred face, Carol Guscott got to see what has carried her through her ordeal.

She was reunited with her 12-year-old son, Dale, who arrived late Saturday from Jamaica, where a pair of vengeful thugs threw acid on Guscott's face in July 1994.

"I'm going through all the pain and suffering because I want to take care of him and provide for him," Guscott said Sunday. "That would mean a lot to me."

Guscott, 36, was blinded and disfigured at her hardware store in Ocho Rios by two men who threw battery acid on her because she wouldn't buy their shoddy lumber.

"I said, 'Oh, God, I'm not going to die,' " she said. And she has continued telling herself that for the last three years, even through painful operations on her eyes and skin. Blind and unable to work after the attack, she left Dale in the care of her mother and sought treatment in the United States.

An American tourist in Jamaica heard about her plight and put her in touch with an Orange County plastic surgeon. After an initial operation in Miami, she came here two years ago for more treatment, with the aid of the Fullerton Lions Breakfast Club. The charity specializes in helping the blind.

The Lions Club arranged a free operation on her right eye, helping her regain some vision. It is helping her with groceries, and through its Carol Guscott Relief Fund is raising the additional $65,000 needed for her reconstructive surgeries.

She's also getting free meals from Boston Market at her temporary home in Fullerton, and Air Jamaica gave her son a free flight to facilitate the reunion.

"He was on my mind so much," she said of the thin, bright-eyed youngster. "He's always been on my mind. He's been my strength."

*

Mother and son have kept in touch with monthly phone calls since they separated. Dale will have to return to Jamaica for school in September, but Guscott plans to visit at Christmastime.

In the meantime, though, she faces cataract surgery on her left eye, and plastic surgery to reconstruct her face.

"When Carol can see Carol in the mirror, that's when we're done," said Robert Crancer of the Lions Club. "We're not letting go."

David Crawford, also with the Lions Club, said it took a month of haggling with embassies to arrange Dale's trip. And obstacles continued to the end, as Dale was held up in immigration at Los Angeles International Airport because his paperwork said he was visiting his daughter.

But about 11 p.m. Saturday, the reunion came at last.

"I was so excited," Guscott said. "I hugged him and I squeezed him. We embraced for a few minutes. I was just feeling and touching him."

Guscott said they'll make the usual stops for any 12-year-old tourist--Disneyland, Sea World. But they also plan to hit the library so Guscott can help Dale brush up on his studies, and also use library computers to access the Internet. Dale hopes to be a computer scientist one day.

*

At a reunion lunch Sunday, Dale said he was a little overwhelmed by the attention.

"I wasn't expecting all this," he said, a few minutes after well-wishers, reporters, photographers and television cameramen swarmed around his table to watch him eat his ham, corn and mashed potatoes.

Guscott said the first thing her son asked her was, "Mommy, when are you going to have your operation?"

"Oh, those words went through me," she said. "If only I could take it and make it right."

Crawford said someone who looked at Guscott now would see a face ravaged by acid.

"But you talk to her for a while," he said, his eyes welling up, "and you see the person inside. And she's a beautiful person."

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