June 4, 1997 in Nation/World

Tearful Reunion In Shabazz Burning Malcolm X’S Widow ‘Critical’; Suspect, Mom Meet At Hearing

Washington Post

Betty Shabazz’s daughter and troubled 12-year-old grandson were reunited Tuesday in an emotional Family Court proceeding here as doctors prepared to perform delicate surgery to save Shabazz’s life.

A tearful Qubilah Shabazz, who flew from San Antonio to join her critically injured mother and her imprisoned son, Malcolm, stared straight ahead when the boy walked handcuffed into the courtroom and sat down beside her. But when a tear rolled down his cheek, she dabbed it with a tissue and put her hand on his leg until a court officer told her she was not allowed to touch him.

Judge Howard Spitz postponed until Friday a preliminary hearing on a charge of juvenile delinquency against Malcolm, the grandson of slain black leader Malcolm X, for allegedly setting a fire in the apartment of his grandmother, Betty Shabazz. The elder Shabazz suffered third-degree burns - penetrating all layers of skin - over 80 percent of her body and damage to the lining of her lungs.

The postponement was made to allow for a psychiatric evaluation of Malcolm.

Meanwhile, Bruce Greenstein, director of the burn unit at Jacobi Medical Center where Betty Shabazz is being treated, said surgeons hope to begin removing burned tissue and replacing it with artificial skin if Shabazz’s vital signs remain stable.

Several experts said that a person of Shabazz’s age - 61 - normally has less than a 10 percent chance of surviving such burns.

“Any surgical intervention on someone with these extensive burns puts her at great risk, but it’s an absolute necessity if there is to be hope for her survival,” he said.

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