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