Mako Nikoshwa had been unwell for a couple of days when his condition worsened further and he decided to seek help from the University Teaching Hospital in Kigali (CHUK).
He still vividly recalls that morning of February 7th, 2014: “I went to the hospital knowing I would return home later that day but that was not possible. Instead I was hospitalized,” he reveals during this interview on Friday afternoon at his home in Kacyiru.
“I thought I would spend a very short time there but that time became longer. I spent more than six months in hospital.”
And the clock seemed to tick so slowly during this difficult time, that two weeks would seem like four months in elapsing.
Yet that’s not all: “After hospital I spent another four months in almost the same condition as I was in hospital,” Mako reveals.
If anything, he had used the time in hospital to do a bit of introspection and soul-searching: “It is at CHUK that I realized that all the time I had been a musician people cared so much about what I sung about in my songs,” he delves into his stint at hospital.
“It is fans and Rwandans in general that made me to come out of hospital alive because people came to hospital to visit me in large numbers every day, others even contributed their money towards my medical bills and up keep because I was using very expensive medicine but at no one time did I lack drugs.
This made me to realize that I was of value to these people and that perhaps my music means much more to them than I had earlier thought.”
After another four months of sickness at home his condition deteriorated again, and he was referred from the Police Hospital in Kacyiru where he was receiving out-patient treatment to the military hospital in Kanombe.
At Kanombe the Afro-beat musician tried his best to avoid attracting media attention to himself, remembering his time at CHUK when his condition deteriorated so much that at one time he was proclaimed dead by some sections of the local media. Surprisingly he took (and still takes) all of this in good stride:
“I don’t blame anyone for thinking I was dead because of the condition I was in at the time. Honestly I looked like someone who would die in the night or the next morning. I myself knew how bad my situation had become. Whenever I looked at myself in the mirror I realized that indeed I had been destined for death. When people pronounced me dead when I was still alive it instead made me feel like a winner because the way I looked and the condition I was in, I was as good as dead.
The fact that I survived made me much stronger because whenever I heard my own death announcement I thought I had another two days to live, but then I kept breathing until the treatment started taking its effect and I felt new life in me.”
He was discharged from CHUK without fully recovering, although he had gained some strength.
“It was important that I leave hospital because I was very weak and in poor shape at the time. Part of the reason I was discharged was to avoid contracting new diseases from the hospital. Actually that is when I also realized that hospital is not a place where you go to get healed, but rather a place you go and get diagnosed and medicine prescribed and administered so that you can heal from home.”
Life after hospital
After another four months battling sickness outside hospital, he developed a swelling on his neck that called for specialized surgery at the Military Hospital in Kanombe.
But he had to wait three months for a specialist surgeon from the Seychelles to perform the operation.
His neck was eventually operated upon and he returned home and spent another five months bed ridded and weak.
“What I learnt from my situation is that whenever there is a bad situation, there can also be a good situation after. Personally I had reached a point where I thought the only option for me was death, especially the operation on my neck at Kanombe Hospital because at that time I was very weak and had lost a lot of weight.
Most importantly I learnt that as a human being one must have hope at all times in their life –hope that things will get better. At CHUK my condition was very bad but I had hope that one day I would walk again. I remember praying to God and asking him to allow me a second chance to move freely without being under a roof.
At that point I had resigned myself to lying on a hospital bed under a roof and a ceiling. I thought that after the hospital ward I would end up in the mortuary, still under a roof and a ceiling, then after that in a casket and buried under the soil. I asked God for one more chance to be able to walk again under the sun and I’m glad that it came to pass.”
Mako can’t wait to re-assure his fans and the Rwandan public that he is alive and well:
“I feel I am fine now. I feel I am fine, and I know that whatever it is that I was not able to accomplish in the past, I can still do it now. I now know that no matter how bad the situation one may be in, there is always a person that is in a worse situation. The condition I was in at hospital was very bad, but it was not the worst that a human being has been through.”
One just has to take a look at pictures of the singer while still in hospital and shortly after, and compare them with what he looks like at the moment.
Mako is well aware of the fact that many people still have no idea the physical transformation he has since undergone, and that many more, especially in the countryside still believe him to be a dead man.
He narrates the story of a recent trip to Nyanza district at which, during one of the events he attended, the crowd was excited to see him and duly asked him to perform for them.
“Many people who heard this thought it was a trick because they thought I was dead and buried. Some of them still had pictures of me while still in hospital and looking at them, they couldn’t believe that I could return to my current appearance.
When I got up to sing, my energy was high and this got the fans even more confused as to whether indeed it was the Mako they knew. This forced me to ask the DJ to pose the track so that I could sing acapella just for people to know it was me.”
The road ahead
Mako promises to dedicate even more time and energy to his music than ever before, and explains why:
“It is because of music that Rwandans cared for and treated me as one of their own during my most trying times. And to me this meant a lot.
People from all walks of life flocked to the hospital everyday to see me and to assist me in whatever small way that they could. People came from as far as Butare while others called me from as far as Dubai and Paris just to check on me and wish me well.
Putting all this in mind, I don’t see why I should stop singing. My motivation is the amount of love, care and kindness that Rwandans showed me when I was down.”
To demonstrate his zeal, he has put out a handful of audio tracks since his condition improved, the most popular being Weekend, and Agahinda, featuring Zoguman.
He promises video clips for the two tracks very soon.
“The reason I took long to make videos for these songs is because I was still in bad shape from sickness and did not look good. There wouldn’t have been a point in making videos when I still looked sickly. Now that I am well and look good, it’s time to shoot the two videos.”
He attends the occasional music gig, “not to make money”, he explains, “but to demonstrate to fans that I am alive and well, and still passionate about the music.
“I want to check myself to see if I’m in the right position to perform because the question on all my fans’ lips is; Mako is now fine, now what’s new?
I feel that now I’m in position to do music on a bigger level. Before, I used to sing because I had the talent and I enjoyed the stardom that came with it, but now I don’t look at stardom so much. All I want is to see that I can reach another level – regional or international.”