The power of audacious faith
In October 2016, Mitch Shalom’s life took a totally unexpected twist when she was involved in a road accident that claimed the lives of two people.
She survived narrowly, and was left for dead in the trench she landed in when a saloon car knocked the bodaboda she was on. She sustained five cracks on her skull, one stretching up to the ear! Together with her family and friends, they narrated her miraculous recovery to Francis Emukule.
“On Tuesday at 3:15 pm I received a call informing me that my daughter had been involved in an accident,” she mother Florence Iwitung says.
“I did not know how to react to the shocking news, but I made my way to Life Link Hospital, Kyaliwajjala, where I found Shalom lying lifeless on a stretcher, having already been pronounced dead by the doctors.
“When I entered the room, there was a lot of blood flowing from her ears, mouth and nose. There was no one attending to her and the doctor handed me the death certificate and told me she was dead!”
But Ms Iwutung was not about to accept the death of her daughter. She rejected the path of the undertaker.
“I tore the death certificate up, threw it back at him and told him I am not burying my daughter. I held Shalom and spoke to her body. I spoke to her because I knew she could hear me. I told her: ‘Whether you are in this body or not, I know you can hear me and if you are in there, you are not getting out’.”
She adds that she stood on her faith and invited God to come into the situation.
“I looked at the double doors with tears in my eyes, then told God to pass through the doors on His two feet, come in and preserve my daughter’s life because it is a curse to bury a child.”
After about an hour of prayer, she asked the doctors for an ambulance. She was told that Shalom had been referred to Mulago Hospital and the ambulance was on its way.
“Their idea was to take her to the mortuary but I told them to cancel that referral and change it to International Hospital Kampala (IHK).”
At this point, she had only Shs17,000 on her. The ambulance finally arrived at 8am the following morning. Iwutung suspects that the delay was intentional, to break her faith.
Another surprise awaited her, because the said ‘ambulance’ was actually a box body vehicle into which they dragged Shalom and began rotating around Kyaliwajjala, Ntinda, then to Shoprite Lugogo, wasting a whole hour on the way.
The stay at IHK
When they finally arrived at IHK, the doctors agreed to carry out a brain CT scan.
“When they did, the doctor screamed, “She is alive!”
“Her brain was 100 percent functional and the brain surgeon came out and told me he had two messages for me: the good and the bad. He said the bad was that she had sustained five cracks on the skull, one of them had gone through the ear and the skin on her brain had moved.
“He added that if she ever came back to life, it would take her five years to know her name. He went on to say that even when the wounds on the head healed, they would not guarantee her safety,” Ms Iwutung said.
For 21 days they were in the intensive care unit (ICU). However, on the 18th day the doctors told Iwutung that since Shalom was clinically dead before she was brought into the hospital, it was a waste of time and money (Shs1.8 million per day) to sustain her in ICU.
Meanwhile, Shalom’s family members had moved in to stay at the hospital all this time. This was costly, and close to Shs60 million was spent.
“We received close to 900 people from all around the world who contributed to her care and ours. Some people did not know her, others did, but they all contributed. I remember even receiving Shs500 from my niece!
“I told the doctors that unless the brain function that had been detected in the CT scan stopped, he was not to disconnect her from life support,” Iwutung said.
On the 21st day, at 11:58am, Shalom opened her eyes. This was the second miracle after the CT scan report.
“However, the doctor said it was just a reflex action as it happens to a lot of people in coma. He was still trying to convince us that Shalom is not back, but when he looked at her open eyes, he noticed she was following our conversation!”
The coma aftermath
Shalom was later discharged from hospital. However, as a result of the accident she sustained multiple compound fractures in the right leg from the big toe through the joint to above the knee. The doctors recommended that the leg be amputated because she would never walk again.
“They expressed worry that Shalom’s leg was going to rot, her skin on the leg had turned to black and was sticky. Every time you touched her, it would come off with your palm.
“But I told the doctors not to even think about it because if God had wanted one leg on her he would have given her one.”
Three days later, her skin began to get back to normal and two weeks later, the metal that was put in her leg to give it support was removed. She started to learn how to walk again and six months later, Shalom was able to even run.
However, due to the multiple cracks that she sustained in her skull, she developed abnormal mood swings and terrible headaches.
“If she was happy it would be too much and if she was sad she was so sad that she would be depressed and secluded from the rest.”
Two months after the accident, Shalom decided to go back to school even when the doctors recommended that she requests for a dead year for her full recovery.
“I managed to cope, but sometimes my brain would shut down in class and there would be nothing I could understand,” Shalom said.
The doctors had also warned that she would never remember anything from the accident, and that came to pass. In fact she could not remember most of her friends when she came out of the coma and today she still lives with the psychological torture of that terrible past.
“Sometimes when moving in a vehicle I start imagining a truck coming towards us to cause a head-on collision and kill us!”
A remarkable person
Prof. Augustine Senoga Wamala, a lecturer in comparative public policy describes Shalom as a determined, focused and resilient person who would not allow mishaps to deter her.
Mrs Olive Birabi, the Director, Students Affairs also noted that Shalom is a single-minded, persistent and tough person.
“Even when many people gave up, she did not. She has an amazing spirit and even with her circumstances she did not complain.”
Shalom graduated from UCU on July 6 with a Bachelor’s degree in Governance and International Relations having attained a GPA of 3.0. Her mother, Iwutung, says that life is what you make it. She is firm in her faith in God, and credits Him for her daughter’s life.
Shalom is planning on pursuing her academic dream of doing a master’s in Peace and Human Rights.
Friends in need, friends indeed
Milly Mutoni, a friend, recounts that when she heard the news, she was in disbelief because earlier on in the day, she was with Shalom.
“I did not believe she would make it out of coma when I saw her in hospital. After she was discharged, however, I knew she would be well. We looked after her and hoped for the best,” Mutoni said.
“Sometimes she would really be rude to us, but we understood her state. And her willingness to learn despite the accident was the most amazing thing about her, although I had to repeat things for her over and over again,” adds Linda Tayebwa
“The stress of tests and coursework made Shalom suffer constant headaches, which often made her forget all the content discussed earlier. But her accident made me realize that life is short and precious. So I do not take small things for granted,” Tayebwa added.