When it comes to physical pain, some suffer it in small doses and can jump, walk or even smile. But for Judith Mujawimana, her pain is so unbearable that she only wishes to die and end the suffering she has agonizingly endured for the last seven years.
“I haven’t known happiness for the years I have been confined here on my bed. I have forgotten what the outside world looks like. I can only reminisce about it when I was robust in health and could walk around like other people before this sickness struck me down.”
Mujawimana was born 57 years ago in Juru neighbourhood in Kimihurura. In 1978, at a tender age of 21, she met and got married to the love of her life, Celestine Bizabarimana with whom they were blessed with three children. Unfortunately, death took away one of them who left behind three orphans.
The emotional pain of losing a son did not, however, prepare her for the kind of physical pain she would suffer later in her life, a brutal pain that has ensured she lives the rest of her life on her bed in her small bedroom cum sitting room in the same Umudugudu she was born in.
But even when she recounts her life before her leg had swollen to monstrous proportion, you see that her face doesn’t light up to reveal any happiness of the past.
Instead it grimaces as she suffers yet another paroxysm of pain in her festering leg. She rubs it gently, but that doesn’t seem to salve it, as the grimace is accompanied by a prolonged groan of ache.
It started somewhere in 2006. “I felt my ankle bone hurt one day. It was a numbing feeling that ached just a little. I thought it was just a fleeting twinge. I didn’t seek any medical attention at that time.” That turned out to be a bad decision that would come back to haunt her perhaps for the rest of her life.
Mujawimana says that as days passed, she could see her foot begin to swell a little by little while the pain increased slowly in intensity. Then one day, when she couldn’t bear it anymore, she and her husband decided that it was time to consult a doctor. Their destination was to a private hospital she can hardly remember the name now.
“The doctors gave me injections and drugs and told us to go home. I was to take the drugs for a number of days and I hopefully waited to recover, now that I had consulted specialists.
However, the magical moment of healing didn’t arrive as her foot continued to swell and the pain intensified. “We decided to consult the same hospital and they just did as the first, giving me another injection and a dose of drugs.”
Still, there was no change. The leg had now grown into a stump. Within a span of seven months, she couldn’t walk anymore, forcing her husband to hire a car to take her to the same hospital. “But upon seeing the state I was in, they resignedly told me that there was nothing they could do, gave me some medicine and told me to go home and hope for the best.”
With this grim verdict by the doctors, her fate seemed to have been sealed. The only thing left now was for Bizabarimana to carry his stricken wife back home, lay her on the bed and wait for fate to do its part. She threw away the drugs she was given, since they had not helped her before. She’s taking no palliative drugs even now to alleviate her pain.
It’s has been an excruciating seven years in which fate has stubbornly refused to do its part, but left a woman who is forced to live daily nursing her festering and swollen leg in a family that lives in abject poverty.
Bizabarimana has to spend sleepless nights with his wife, nursing her through her agony and waking up in the morning to go and do some odd jobs to sustain the family that consists of the afflicted wife, him and the three orphans their late son left behind. Sometimes, he says, jobs are hard to come by and hunger stares them in the face.
In her frugal house deep in the slums of Kamukina in Juru, Mujawimana has also to live with a group of flies that rushes to her leg anytime she removes the shawl she uses to cover it.
Meanwhile, in a world of top surgeons, a continent of some known philanthropists, a region of top hospitals and a country boasting of the best healthcare in the region, her only request is for someone to come and give her sugar here, a soap there and food to free her husband to take care of her as her life slowly ebbs away.