Once-shy Dermain Badal has blossomed after having surgery to reconstruct his jaw. His teeth were torn up in a drive-by shooting when he was younger.
By LOGAN MABE
Published December 28, 2003
NORTHDALE - Dermain Badal is still looking for fresh reasons to use his newly minted smile.
The Gaither High School sophomore, originally from Jamaica, was the victim of a drive-by shooting in Kingston when he was a young boy. The bullet tore through his jaw, shattering his teeth on the way out.
"I don't remember much," said Badal, who had gone to the market to buy fish for his grandmother. "It was like seeing a shadow." In that shadow was the man who shot him in the jaw.
Badal moved to Tampa and a school social worker arranged for a dentist to reconstruct his jaw for free. Once-shy Badal blossomed after the surgeries.
"He certainly has become more social," said Rosemary Brewer, the social worker who serves Gaither and Maniscalco Elementary School. "It seems like he's got a lot more friends."
Badal, now 17, said he is enjoying both his new smile and the story behind it. "People talk about it," he said. "I've got people who come up and say, "Hey, I saw you in the newspaper.' "
While his looks have improved, the year has been tough. The grandmother who raised him in Jamaica died in October. A week later his favorite aunt died. Despite the losses, Badal is aiming for B's and better on his report card.
His dentist, Dr. Tom Frankfurth, continues to treat him at no charge. And Badal plans to make the most of his smile.
"Immigration is supposed to send me some documents so I can get my green card and work," he said. "All I need right now is a little work so I can make some money."