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SURVIVOR’S STORIES: IN THEIR OWN WORDS | Margaret Arach, Uganda

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Margaret Arach
I am a single mother with five children. Around Christmas 1998 I decided to travel from Kitgum District in Northern Uganda to Kampala to be with my family, despite reports of rebel attacks. There were twenty-three of us on the bus including the driver and three babies. Not a word was uttered until the next thing I heard was a “bang!” Every able person tried to run. Little did I know that the “bang” had severed off my right foot.

I managed to lower myself by the roadside and drag myself further into the tall grass where I remained still lying face down. The first rebel who reached me stole my watch. The second had nothing else to steal, except my jeans. I decided to pretend to be dead. At the time of the accident I weighed 74 kgs and it gave him a hard time turning me over and trying to get the trouser off. He gave up but not before dropping his gun on my injured leg to see whether I would make any movement. I did not. As all this was going on, the whole area was rocked with gunshots. The rebels then set fire to the vehicle, which would have burnt me beyond recognition because I was lying near it. However, with the wind blowing in my direction, I managed to crawl away under the smoke screen to safety in an abandoned hut just before the fuel tank exploded.

The army arrived at the scene and I crawled back to the main road. I was put underneath the vehicle while they continued to search for more survivors. Finally, they drove us to a nearby health unit where the second bits of my leg were cut off without any anesthesia. By the end of the day I reached the main hospital in Gulu, almost 60 kilometres away, in unbearable pain and screaming at the top of my voice.

The next day, I woke up in the intensive care unit and realized I was disabled. Being independent is what I really craved. From the second week of being hospitalised, I refused to use the bedpan and crawled each time I had to use the bathroom. I wanted to be able to do everything and not depend on anyone. It is not possible though – ‘No Man is an Island’.

My stay in the hospital lasted for 2 months. I took to praying, which was always my way of life even before the accident. It is by faith, through my spiritual background that I was able to pull through. Support from my family and friends contributed greatly to my recovery. The next thing I want to learn is to run and possibly dance! I still have problems over shoes and dresses to put on but will get over it too. My life is full of more positive than negative. As a result of the accident, I appreciate that I am alive. As the only parent to my children, I am here for them. Working as a Secretary, I am fortunate that I was spared my upper limbs and my sight. The wonderful friends I now have love me just as I am. I have learned to be considerate and have compassion towards people with disabilities. I now know how they feel. Often I stop to talk to disabled persons that I meet on the way -- especially amputees -- and encourage them that it’s not the end of everything losing a limb. I have a new life.


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