Monday May 26 2014

When I stared death in the face and defied it

The writer, Bernard Opwonya lying on his

The writer, Bernard Opwonya lying on his hospital bed with his wife Joyce in the background. courtesy photo 

By Bernard Opwonya

It was a fine early afternoon on Sunday, April 27, when all unfolded before my eyes. I came so close to death. A reckless commuter taxi driver knocked me down and literally drove over my chest on Burton Street above the Old Taxi Park in downtown Kampala. He was escaping from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) law enforcers implementing a ban on parking in undesignated areas.

But by God’s providence, despite the serious nature of the accident, I remained conscious. After the driver took off, I pulled myself up and moved for about five metres then lay on a nearby shop verandah, pulled out my phone and called my wife as a crowd gathered.

I could hear some suggesting rushing me to Mulago hospital, which I vehemently resisted since with my journalism work, I know first-hand the derelict state of that facility’s accident and emergency unit. It sends shivers down my spine when I imagine what would have happened had I been unconscious!

Indeed, it was my lucky day, probably because I had celebrated my birthday three days earlier.
My wife’s phone habits are not the best; she rarely picks her phone instantly.

But when I called, she did and within 10 minutes, she was at the accident scene, courtesy of a boda boda. And in another 10 minutes, I was being attended to at International Hospital Kampala (IHK) where I was rushed by a cab. Being a Sunday, I also survived the notorious city lunch-hour traffic mess.

The staff at IHK led by Dr Phiona Kabatooro, were so swift. It was as though everyone had abandoned their work stations to attend to me.
I followed everything and after a series of tests – X-ray, CT and abdominal scans – to ascertain the extent of my injuries, I was at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with so many wires connected to my body leading to a monitor ticking above my bed like a clock. You would think I was specimen for some medical research.
The lead doctor, Prof Ashraf Muhammed, then performed mini surgery to insert a tube into my lungs to drain blood. I later got two pints of blood. My chest was so heavy it felt like a huge stone was placed on it.
I breathed with the aid of an oxygen mask attached to a huge cylinder. The tests showed that my other internal organs – the heart, liver and kidney were intact; a miracle.
Now, ICU is so scary. In fact some two friends collapsed shortly after seeing me. I understood their shock; for death appears to behove in the room.

The doctors and nurses in ICU are so jolly. As they attended to patients in critical condition, they afforded jokes that eased my pain. But for someone with 11 broken ribs, I had to be careful with mirth.

Thankfully my recovery was fast and the doctors told me it was rare.
I was moved to the general wards after six days in the ICU and finally discharged on May 14. I will forever be grateful to the amiable doctors, nurses and support staff at IHK whose level of customer care is probably unmatched.

The medical bill hit Shs18.5m. It’s huge but I am thankful my life was saved. I am also indebted to my family, former employer NBS Television and friends who helped me pay part of it. I still have an outstanding Shs7m and any help is welcome.

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