Dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a black and white checked short-sleeved shirt, both his hands energetically plucking at a branch of a passion fruit tree, he seldom stands straight and when he does, it is to answer a telephone call.
That is the state in which I found Pastor Kwizera Eleazzar, father to a young girl whose ordeal is a life-sobering experience.
On August 1, 1996, Ingabire Comfort Kwizera was born at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, a happy baby like many others.
The joy that comes with the birth of a child was not to last long because she was born with a hole on her heart.
“I never had a good life; but after my operation, I’ve gradually gone through better moments,” Ingabire narrates, struggling to enunciate her words.
Medically, holes on the heart are the commonest forms of inborn heart defects. The term refers to the defects in the partitions (septums) which separate the two sides of the heart, explains Dr Edgar Kalimba of King Faisal Hospital.
He further adds that in most cases, with this problem, oxygenated blood is forced from the left to the right side of the heart through a hole in the partition between the two sides.
Too much blood passes into the lungs (via the pulmonary artery) and too little to the body tissues (via the aorta). Ingabire’s family lived in Kigali after 1994 and left the country for Uganda in 2003.
Eight years before her family moved to Uganda, Pr. Kwizera worked as the Director of L’esperance Children’s Aid, a home to more than 500 children orphaned by the 1994 Genocide, located in Kibuye.
Ingabire’s tale is an unusual childhood punctuated with real low moments that many children only hear about in stories.
A hole on the heart is about life and death. It is about the meaning of life and the meaninglessness of existence.
In most cases, patients spend a day without assurance of the next minute. At first sight, you will realize that she has not enjoyed the happiest times an innocent child like her is supposed to.
This is because she has had a retarded growth as a result of this condition. Looking at her you would think she is six or seven when she is actually eleven years old. Her mother recounts an incident when Ingabire almost died as her uncle playfully held her and threw her up in the air.
“I became nervous and worried because it seemed like I was losing her. She lost breath and became unconscious for some minutes. But thank God, He has brought her this far,” she said struggling to hold back tears.
To many people, Comfort is just a miracle because most children born with this condition hardly live up to this age. It is amazing how this has happened, and that is why she enjoys a big portion of love from her family. Fortunately she was brought up with both parents and this has helped her in life as she grows up.
“Taking care of her at home has helped her learn the most important and basic things in life like talking, loving, playing and running. She is now even able to go to school,” admits Faith Kwizera, her eldest brother and a 3rd year Economics student at Bugema Adventist University in Uganda.
With present technology, in the midst of all this unpredictable life, there is hope. Well, at least, there is something. There can be an oasis of hope, of humanity, of redemption.
With the assistance of relatives and friends, Ingabire’s miraculous and successful operation was carried out at Leipzig Herzzentrum (Leipzig Heart Centre) in Germany by Dr Kostalika on September 26, 2006.
Mothers of children born with heart defects often think that they did something wrong during the pregnancy to cause the problem.
However, most of the time, doctors don't know why they develop. Heredity may play a role in some heart defects but it is on very rare occasions more than one child in a family is born with a heart defect.
“It was a very devastating revelation since it’s the first and only kind in the family. She lives simply because God has answered our prayers and for me this is just a miracle similar to one in which Lazarus was brought back to life in the Bible,” confesses Jennipher Niyonziza, Ingabire’s only sister.
She has had problems speaking well but this has not stopped her from playing and running around with fellow children.
“I can’t speak very well but I like to play with Nyangoma, Nyakato and Mariet,” Ingabire says, pointing at the three siblings she lives with.
At what is supposed to be a calm and lonely home, I am stunned to realize that it’s never quiet since Ingabire is always in the comfort of her age mates to help her grow both physically and mentally.
Asked how important and expensive it is to regularly have children around her, the low profile and down-to-earth retired Seventh Day Adventist Church pastor informs me that he lives with all of them and that they are all his children.
“I have so many children; I love and live with all of them. I work tirelessly for each of them to become the best person they can. God has blessed me with a very big family,” said Pastor Kwizera, although he hastened to add that he produced only four out of the fourteen who storm his Mityana home during school holidays.
Ingabire goes to boarding school, but how she is able to handle boarding school life at such a tender age, I have not the slightest idea.
I didn’t hide my curiosity about this and was later told that it is vital for her to spend most of her time at school with other kids.
I further couldn’t stop wondering why such a young and energetic man like him had to quit the pastoral ministry and I was surprised at what he told me about how one never ceases to be a pastor once a pastor.
“I still preach though am not in active service for the church, and I am the chaplain of Hillside College,” affirms the articulate pastor.
To many people, Comfort’s experience is a strange but true story. It is both phenomenal and mind-boggling but as for me, I don’t need anything else to prove that God really lives.