A Rotherhithe woman is begging for witnesses to come forward after her elderly father was hospitalised, lost his memory and even had to be taught how to eat again following a probable hit-and-run.
Eighty-one-year-old Rogelio Zapatero – known locally as Roger – appears to have been hit by a vehicle at about 7pm on February 12 by the Rotherhithe roundabout and suffered a broken hip, although he has no memory of the incident.
He was rushed to St Thomas’, where he has been ever since. Mr Zapatero suffered a heart attack in hospital and his heart stopped for three minutes. Doctors had to break his ribs in order to resuscitate him, according to his daughter Carmen. He was on a life-support machine for twelve days and then on a breathing tube, which has been out for about a week.
He was unable to talk at first and had to be taught how to eat again, but is only allowed mushy foods, because the broken ribs mean he finds it very difficult to cough and has no gag reflex.
Sadly, Mr Zapatero is also now in a state of “post-operative delirium” where he struggles to remember basic things like his age.
“He didn’t know what year it was, or how old he was,” Ms Zapatero said of her father. “I asked him to guess how old he might be. He came up with 35. I didn’t want to let him know he was 81.”
Mr Zapatero even struggled to remember his own daughter’s name for several seconds, before remembering that it began with ‘C’ and eventually getting the full word.
Doctors said they don’t know how long his delirious state might last – it could be six months, or it could be permanent. “He doesn’t know where he is, right now he wouldn’t be able to live alone,” Ms Zapatero said. “He was very independent before.”
Ms Zapatero criticised the police investigation, which appears not to have yielded any results, and said she would be making a formal complaint. She said she had not received any follow-up calls or emails from the police, despite the serious nature of the incident. A CCTV camera in the area belongs to Transport for London (TfL) who said they could only release the footage to police. The Met was contacted for comment on the progress made in the investigation.
Ms Zapatero, who has lived in Rotherhithe for about twenty years, moved her father to the area two years ago so she could keep an eye on him more easily. A former paratrooper and shop manager, he came to the UK from Spain in 1965 to learn English. “He fell in love with my mum. I don’t think either of them could speak the other person’s language,” Ms Zapatero said.
In his retirement Mr Zapatero is a keen gardener and reader. “He likes travelling places, even local places,” Ms Zapatero said. “It sounds silly but he loved going to the pound shop and seeing what he would find in there. But his main love is his grandchildren really.
“He just has a zest for life. He never would say he’s had enough of his life. He’s a positive person.”
In the apparent absence of progress on the police investigation, Ms Zapatero is calling for anyone who has any information about what happened to her father to come forward.
“The point is he’s fighting for his life. We need to know what happened.
“If somebody has done a hit and run, it’s pretty awful not to stop. We just don’t know what’s happened, and we can’t tell him.”
A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 6:53pm on 12 February to reports of a road traffic collision on Lower Road.
“We sent an ambulance crew to the scene. We treated a person and took them to hospital.”
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