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    Son gets his wish: Family returns home

    Members of the Womble family of Brandon were injured in Pakistan by a grenade explosion.

    By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 23, 2002


    A Brandon boy who was injured by a terrorist's grenade at a church in Pakistan last month got his birthday wish on Saturday.

    Samuel Womble and his family flew home to America.

    In February, the Womble family -- Jeff and Cindy and their three children ages 4 through 9 -- moved to Islamabad, Pakistan, to work for a humanitarian aid agency. On March 17, the unthinkable happened: Jeff, Cindy and Samuel, then 6, were at a Sunday church service when a man heaved a grenade inside.

    Jeff Womble threw his wife to the ground and jumped on top of her.

    The force of the blast threw Samuel about three rows away. When Jeff Womble found his son, blood gushed from his head. He wasn't sure whether Samuel would live.

    A grenade lay next to Cindy's head, but it had not exploded. The couple's other two children were in another part of the church and were not injured.

    Five people were killed in the attack.

    Because both Samuel and his mother needed extensive medical care, they were flown to a U.S. military base hospital in Europe. Doctors removed more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel from Samuel's brain, and extricated shrapnel from Cindy's leg.

    Both Jeff and Cindy's eardrums were burst by the blast.

    Yet the family never lost their faith, said their pastor, John Russell of Bell Shoals Baptist Church.

    "I think their faith has everything to do with their healing," he said.

    The family returned to the U.S. on Saturday and are being treated at an undisclosed hospital. On Monday, Russell read a statement from the family to reporters and said the Wombles are asking for their privacy for the next few weeks and will tell their story when they have healed.

    Both Jeff and Cindy will need additional operations to restore their hearing. As for Samuel, he is talking and walking with the aid of a walker, and celebrated his seventh birthday on the plane.

    It does not appear that Samuel will need additional brain surgery, the family said. Through Russell, the family thanked the many people in Florida who wrote, sent cards and prayed for their recovery.

    "We are very grateful to be back in the United States," the Wombles wrote. "Even though the last several weeks have been most difficult, God is providing both peace and comfort and wonderful care from family members, friends and medical teams.

    "Our spirits are high and the days ahead look bright ... we anticipate complete healing."

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