A woman may have to give up her lifelong passion for dancing after recently slipping and falling on a newly-built Paceville ramp.
Elaine Zerafa, 74, is calling for pavements to be made safer and spoke to this newspaper in a bid to help avoid similar accidents. She said she was not after compensation.
Ms Zerafa, who spent five weeks in a wheelchair, has been dancing for more than seven decades. Now she does not know if she will be able to go back to twirling, she said, using her wrist to imitate a move that she used to make with her ankle in Latin dancing.
The secretary of the Royal Naval Association, she leads an active life, and having her mobility limited is “doing her head in”.
One Sunday morning in the middle of January, she got out of her car and popped into a stationer’s to buy a phone card.
“On my way back to the car… bang,” she said, slapping her hands together.
“I bashed the back of my head on the pavement and just lay there on the road for some minutes. I think I was unconscious for some time, because when I opened my eyes, I could see stars.”
Ms Zerafa could not use her arms to lift herself up, as she had damaged her left elbow and right shoulder. “I was in pain, and I saw my left ankle swelling up like a football.”
She called for help and after a few minutes, a man, whose identity she does not know and whom she wishes to thank, ran to her assistance. Her husband took her to the hospital.
Ms Zerafa’s foot was found to have been displaced from her ankle by nearly two inches, and the foot was fractured in two places. In surgery three days later, she had six pins and a plate permanently inserted in her ankle.
After attending numerous physiotherapy sessions, she still can’t walk properly and her shoulder still hurts.
When this newspaper went to the site of her fall, the slippery, steep ramp just outside some garages on S. Privitera Street was exactly as Ms Zerafa left it in January.
The ramp and a new sidewalk have been paved by a private contractor when a new building went up on the site.
The ramp looks innocent, but as you get closer, you have to get off the pavement if you do not want to risk ending up like Ms Zerafa.
Installing a handrail would not be helpful, she says, as pedestrians tend to get off the pavement and onto the street to avoid the ramp. The ramp became even more dangerous in very sunny or rainy days, she added.
Ms Zerafa, who has been in Malta for 55 years, living in Paceville for the last 17, expressed her disappointment over the existence of several faulty pavements in the area. To make matters worse, new ramps and pavements have been built without any thought to safety, she said.
“I just want builders and contractors to take pedestrians into consideration,” she said.
When contacted, the local council said that the pavement was reinstated by the contractors of a private company after building a new block.
The council was not satisfied with the end result and instructed the company to install temporary safety measures, including non-slip tape and a railing, until a solution was found for the different levels created on the pavement.
A meeting with the company’s architects is scheduled for this week.
When asked about the general state of the pavements in Paceville, the Executive Secretary noted that while the Council and Administrative Committee did their best to keep sidewalks in good state, even though no funds were allocated to the committee for the maintenance of roads and pavements, planning major refurbishment while a Master Plan was in the pipeline did not make sense.
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