Hit by stray bullet: Young student’s ordeal

Soft-spoken Anne Waitherero, 24, joined Daystar University, Athi River Campus in August 2006. She was looking forward to meeting new and exciting people; enjoy newfound independence and re-discover herself away from sometimes ‘nagging’  parents. But nothing prepared her for what fate had in store for her. She shares the experience that changed her life with FAITH MATHENGE-MURIGU.

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University life ushered her into the delight she had not experienced before. In the spirit of fun making and adventure, Anne and a group of friends planned a one-week trip to Kampala, Uganda, during their recess in March 2007. “I was keen on having fun in campus and the trip to Kampala with my pals was just the beginning of things. The trip was successful and enjoyable,” says Anne, a public relations intern at Local Authorities Pension Trust (LAPTrust) – a contributory pension scheme for local authorities employees and associated organisations. This was the life she wanted and she was determined to have more escapades like the Kampala one. After a week of merry-making, the group returned to the university at 3am on a Wednesday morning and they went to their hostels to catch some sleep. By 7am, Anne was up as she longed to go home to see her parents.

My friends reasoned with me that I should wait for the weekend since it was mid week but I was adamant. My roommate could not understand all the fuss about going home. Unable to convince me, I left campus on Wednesday, March 22, 2007 at noon. Normally, the campus bus would take students to town but I opted to use a matatu feeling that the bus was taking longer than I expected,” Anne says.

Anne got to town after about two hours and headed straight to meet her father, who had asked her to pass by his office so they could go home together. “We left the office at 3pm with my father and his driver. At Pangani, we made a stop over at a butchery where my father often bought meat for the family,” Anne, the last-born in a family of three, narrates.

GUNSHOTS RENT THE AIR…

Anne noticed some commotion a few metres away from the butchery. On looking keenly, there was a car behind them, it was overloaded and apart from having a shattered windscreen, it was being driven at a dangerously high speed.

“All of a sudden, gun shots rent the air. At first I thought it was a tyre burst. The next thing I saw were people scampering for safety. In the ensuing melee, a man from the dangerously driven car pointed a gun in our direction and I was quick to alert my father to duck for safety. Unfortunately, a stray bullet hit me on the leg. I was in a panic,” Anne narrates her ordeal.

Anne did not feel pain at first but noticed blood gushing from her leg. Her father came to her aid, quickly instructing the driver to get to Guru Nanak Hospital, in Nairobi, which was a few metres from the crime scene. A distance, which ideally would take five minutes, took an hour because of the ongoing road construction.

“When we got to the hospital, I was carried on a stretcher since I couldn’t walk and was in excruciating pain. I thought I would pass out. I was immediately taken to the emergency room where first aid was administered before being transferred to the Nairobi Hospital,” she says.

“Meanwhile, my father called a bone specialist who the previous year had attended to my brother – a victim of the Marsabit plane clash where some senior government officials perished. The doctor advised him to book for an operation assuring us that he would be in hospital in a few hours time. My mother came to comfort me in hospital. She prayed and kept assuring me that all would be well,” she adds.

“After a few hours, which seemed like an eternity, the doctor arrived, assessed me and prepared for the operation. I was taken to the theatre for a six-hour surgery. I felt weak and nauseous afterwards and was in great pain. I had an X-ray the following day, which revealed that some metal rods were inserted into my legs during surgery to help rejoin my bones and speed up the healing,” Anne continues to narrate her ordeal.

“To my dismay, the doctor shared that he thought I needed to have my leg amputated because of the severity of the damage but miraculously it never came to that as he was able to fix it. I lost a lot of blood after the shooting and during surgery, which necessitated a blood transfusion. I was discharged from hospital after a few days,” she says.

Anne’s recovery process was a slow and painful one. She walked with the aid of clutches until September 2007. “I put my studies on hold while I was recovering. My friends were already ahead of me in school and this really bothered me, but they cheered me up whenever they came to visit. They updated me on their lives and life generally in campus, which I was missing a great deal. In November 2007, I enrolled for Chinese language classes, which I would attend twice a week to preoccupy myself as I waited to rejoin university the following year,” she says.

“It was celebration time when in January 2008 I was finally able to walk again. The metal rods on my legs were removed in December 2008 although there was a small hiccup. The rods had affected the tendons and nerves on the legs and I had to go back to hospital to have them straightened. This was a very painful procedure that involved putting a plaster to straighten them and inserting small metal rods in my toes as they had also curved and needed straightening. The other headache to deal with was the pressure wounds, which had developed. I was put on antibiotics and within three months was up and running,” recalls Anne.

VALUABLE LESSONS LEARNT…

Anne says she is grateful to God for protecting her life. She no longer runs or dances like she used to but her heart is thankful. “It could have been worse,” she says emphatically.

Anne draws many lessons from her accident, among them finding her purpose in life. During the time she went through so much pain, she drew strength from God and prayed for her purpose. This incident drew her closer to God and she no longer takes her life for granted. Also, the encounter brought her family closer and they now create time to be together whenever they can. She  also realised who her true friends were; something she could not have learnt any other way. “I am more sensitive to people’s needs and have also learnt to take better care of myself. I now have my ‘me’ time, something I didn’t have before,” she says.

“I have forgiven the people who shot me, whom we later learnt were thugs who had robbed the Wells Fargo security company and were later gunned down. I am not bitter about my experience as I believe vengeance belongs to God. I went back to campus, focused more on my studies and graduated in December 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in communication,’’ concludes Anne.

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