In addition to being a single mother-of-eight living on welfare payments, Lacey Harrison faces a future being a full-time carer.
It has been four months since her 11-year-old daughter Denishar volunteered to turn off the metal garden tap at the family’s public housing home in Perth and received an electric shock that stopped her heart. She was electrocuted with up to 230 volts of electricity, which caused a catastrophic brain injury.
‘It should never have happened’
Denishar was medically dead, revived in hospital, and not expected to live. Ms Harrison was told if her daughter did survive she would likely remain in a vegetative state. Instead, the young girl has begun the long road to recovery.
“This accident is an accident that should have never happened, it should have never ever happened,” Ms Harrison told NITV’s The Point.
Since then, the family have temporarily moved into a four-bedroom house. Denishar receives around-the-clock nursing care in the hospital. Earlier this month, she began spending weekends at home. But until renovations to the property are made to accommodate bulky medical equipment, Ms Harrison said it is difficult to provide a reasonable quality of life for her daughter.
"We’re still waiting on the modifications for the home that we’re in at the moment, that will be able to make it more permanent for Denishar to be at home,” she said.
The family are also still waiting for an emergency relief payment to cover the costs associated with providing appropriate care for Denishar.
Ms Harrison has met the West Australian Housing Minister, Peter Tinley, who openly supports her attempt to get an ex-gratia payment from the State Government.
"Given the matter is now in the hands of lawyers, and that the investigation into the incident is still to be completed, the Minister is extremely limited in what he can say," a spokesperson said in a written statement.
"But he has reassured Ms Harrison that both he, as the Minister for Housing, and the Department of Communities will continue to provide all the support and assistance they can."
‘The worst words I’ve ever said in my life’
Ms Harrison said she was outside watering her garden, and called for her oldest daughter inside to turn the kettle on. The power went out, so she went to the electricity meter box, assuming the safety switch had gone off and she could turn it back on.
Ms Harrison claims that she and two of her children got minor electric shocks when attempting to turn on the switch. She called the Homes West public housing organisation to request repairs. After being advised that an electrician would arrive either that evening or the next day, Ms Harrison intended to take her family to the nearby McDonald’s.
Given that the hose was still running, Ms Harrison asked one of her children to assist.
“I said to the kids, 'one of you kids turn the tap off?'” she said.
“I think [they're] the worst words I’ve ever said in my life.”
Denishar was electrocuted when she touched the garden tap.
“She’s just been flung back and dropped on her knees and there was an almighty blood-curdling scream," Ms Harrison said.
The other children watched in terror. Ms Harrison said she also experienced an electric shock while attempting to help her daughter.
“It felt like I was dying,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t do anything, I was helpless, I was stuck on the ground, I was latched to the ground, and I was thinking, this is it, I’m gone, my kids are gonna have no mum and no dad."
Safety regulator EnergySafety has been investigating how the water pipes became electrified.
After speaking with safety inspectors in April, Ms Harrison understands the likely cause was a broken wire. However, it is likely to be months before the official findings of the investigation are handed down.
‘Her life’s uncertain, nobody’s got answers’
Ms Harrison has been disappointed the WA Government’s offer of financial assistance has been slow to arrive.
Gerry Georgatos, from the National Indigenous Critical Response Service, said the family needed both immediate and long-term financial support.
"Denishar will never live free of dependence, never have a family, may never speak,” he said.
In May, the family announced plans to sue the WA Government with boutique law firm Levitt Robinson Solicitors acting on their behalf.
The family’s lawyer, Stewart Levitt, said it will be claimed that the government appears to be in breach of its duty of care.
Meanwhile, Denishar can’t walk, can’t talk and communicates through blinking.
“Her life’s uncertain, nobody’s got answers,” Ms Harrison said.
“We don’t know what Denishar’s little body is gonna do.”
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