In 1995, Allen Mukiza a Rwandan living in South Africa survived a horrific fire that burnt her house after a gas leak. She shares her inspiring story of survival with The New Times, 17 years on.
“As I lay down unconscious years ago, the doctors estimated that if I survived my burns and lived, my lungs and brain would be irreplaceably damaged. But the doctors said the smoke I had inhaled alone should have killed me,” she said.
Allen’s lips where all burnt off and she says every time she looked at her future, it was so painful and complicated.
However, her teenage daughters then, Jane Mutabazi, 16, and Flower Asiimwe, 18, refused to be pessimistic. One month after the traumatic fire, Allen says she believes that, it’s the positive attitude, courage and prayers of her daughters that made her fight for her life—she was discharged from hospital with functioning lungs and no brain damage.
“When we got home and I looked at myself in the mirror, I was horrified, I couldn’t believe that I was once an attractive and beautiful woman like my daughters,” she said.
Nevertheless, her daughters never left her side for a second and despite her lost hope, they continuously encouraged her without being nagged.
“My life came to a standstill in 2000 when I was at home alone and another fire broke out at our house; within seconds the doors were blazed the room was filled with smoke. Our neighbours had a house party and their fence was quite long. By the time they saw the fire, I bet I had already collapsed on the floor,” she narrates.
Eventually, when the help from the Fire brigade arrived, she was rushed to the hospital where she fell into a coma for a month. The doctors almost lost hope.
Allen’s younger daughter, Mutabazi says, “Every night I dreamt about playing and talking to mum again and never did I ever think that she would pass on without talking to us again.
“Our uncle, my mum’s brother, kept our family close and we never gave up on our loving mother.”
During Allen’s third week in coma, the hospital advised her family to save costs and let her go as her chances of survival were less than two percent.
“The was the worst thing anyone ever said to me. I felt like beating up the doctor though he was not the only one that had told us that our mother might never wake up. But still, we totally refused to agree with their advice.
“A month later, my mother woke up from the coma. Her face was operated on and later given time to recover. Of course, she wasn’t as beautiful as before but she didn’t look that bad either,” Mutabazi said.
Allen’s survival is a testimony of her faith.
“The day I knew that God is really alive was when I was discharged from the hospital. I once again had functioning lungs albeit damaged, and amazingly, I had no brain damage.
“The doctors where amazed by how I quickly recovered after the coma,” says Allen.
With a deformed face, Allen says she never wanted to see anyone that wasn’t part of her family as she wondered how ugly they would think she was.
“My daughters complimented me, kissed me over and over again and reminded me of the amazing memories we shared. This kept me strong and made me feel beautiful again.
“We prayed together and they called me all sweet names, they did everything for me until I felt spoilt me. I felt like a baby. There was no more joy I would ever ask for other than the gift of my daughters,” Allen happily says.