They were staring.

Crowding and staring.

When J was finally able to move from where he stood vigil over his cousin’s body, his view obstructed by a set of swinging doors and multiple rows of beds with people languishing in various degrees of care or lack thereof, he was crowded and people stared. Unseeing – or maybe just unable to care about such trivialities – he sat under the shade of a tree beside the male ward, staring ahead.

At first he was alone. But one by one, and then in groups, people began to encircle him, hovering over him in ever closer proximity. No words, no comfort, just invasive stares that waited expectantly for some form of entertainment. They stared as we tried to coax him to drink water. As TeaQueen (TQ) washed blood from her hands. As we hugged, her shaking from the trauma of watching her friend fly into the air and land on the windshield of the car his motorcycle boda hit at top speed.

“they were grabbing at him and shaking him and reaching into his pockets,” she recounted, a blue helmet dangling from her hand instead of the white one she normally carried. someone stole that one during the confusion. Amid the screaming and blood.

Inside the ward, the walls a prison gray despite the windows lining them, H’s head rested on a blue plastic mattress in a pool of blood. His mother unfolded a thin sheet and pulled it over his body, his clear IV drip connected to his arm. I watched his torso move in and out with such profound effort, his legs shaking uncontrollably from the shock.

At home, in America, there would be no family work. In such severe circumstances family, let alone friends, would most likely not be permitted to watch as his injuries were attended to. But here, here TQ searched out the nurse assigned to tending to H’s head, staring her down in a failed attempt to shame her into moving faster, T talked to doctors, and I worked on finding an ambulance to carry H to Kampala.

This isn’t America.

Unable to treat his wounds the hospital was also unable to transport him; the ambulance was in some other undetermined place. Instead we bargained with the county council for theirs, paid for 45 liters of petrol and the driver’s fee before H could be on his way.

About the time the ambulance arrived at Iganga’s hospital it had just been decided to stitch up his head in an effort to stop the bleeding. And by the time that was complete a crowd had swelled around the ambulance, pushing closer, blocking the path and ambulance entrance. Crowding and staring, staring and crowding.

TQ pushed through the crowd at first; murmured angrily to herself. But the crowd remained unmoved, watching as if it were television, as if lives weren’t at stake. TQ’s voice grew louder. found a target; a woman blocking the way, craning her neck for a better view. “why do you stand here? Why are you blocking the way? there is nothing to see you should move. Move.” Her voice, forced politeness, but the edges were barbed in agitation. Kampala is three hours away and, in the absence of medical tests, we had no way of knowing the severity of H’s wounds.

Dropped off at Jinja hospital, the boda driver died.

H was admitted to ICU.

…and we wait.

Uganda is becoming a place of death and injury for me.

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1 Comment on the body of an accident

  1. Lawrence Mumbe says:

    I ask why did it have to be this way, and yet in all I am thankful for the fact that it happened when H had people around him that cared and loved him like self.
    In the midst of it all, I am reminded that though sorrows may last the night, Joy surely comes in the morning.
    Drawn back to the time when I first believed. I hang on to the promise that I have a maker who formed my heart, He knows my name, He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call.
    Therefore, in the midst of hopelesness, I hope that the Sun will shine again: on the H’s family, on those lost in the same manner but more that Little Big sis and TQ stand firm and push on to the end

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