Bakala Dfabachew has been an active member of the Survivor program of Landmine Survivors Network Ethiopia for a year and 5 months to date. Last week, I accompanied Outreach Worker Asamnew Negash on his monthly monitoring and evaluation visit to check on Bakala and his family.
Gangrene, the infamous infection that conjures up images of horrendous injuries suffered in epic conflicts like the American Civil War, caused the loss of his right leg. Two years ago he was employed by the telecommunications companies, clearing brush and trees outside of the city limits for the installation of new power lines. Something went wrong while he was working, a pole fell towards him and in the process of attempting to escape further injury, the axe he was using to clear trees fell square on his foot, slicing deep into the flesh and down to the bone.
Hospitalization, Hope Arrives
Bakala was immediately hospitalized, but within one month the infection had spread and the hospital proceeded to press for an amputation below the knee. The operation was a success, but Bakala’s once active life was now severely curtailed. His employment with the telecom company ended and none of his former colleagues visited him at the hospital. Worse, he soon found out that the company refused to pay the salary they owed him at the time of injury and any further medical or disability expenses.
Bakala reflects upon his former situation, “I was hopeless at the time of the injury and in the hospital I lost even more hope. The injury hurt my mind strongly.” During hospitalization, a much-needed respite from the complex waves of physical and emotional pain arrived in the form of an Outreach Worker from LSN, Rahel Abebaw. The frequent visits and peer support that Rahel provided helped to instill new determination in Bakala and a strong will to survive.
LSN Steps In
After Rahel’s crucial support and psychological assistance paved the way for Bakala’s full recovery, he became a full-fledged Survivor program participant and has benefited immensely from the Network’s comprehensive assistance program. LSN has provided economic assistance in the form of a grant for the renovation of a room attached to his house where Bakala and his wife reside. Also, the Network provided a link and referral contact with the local Red Cross headquarters, where Bakala was able to acquire his second prosthesis, which has proved much more comfortable and flexible than his first one was, and he is now able to conduct farming activities on the 2 small plots of land he shares with his father on the outskirts of the city.
Based on all this and the continued support/visits from Asamnew, Bakala states “LSN intervened at the right moment, when I was losing hope. All LSN programs and benefits are deeply rooted in my heart and in my mind and in the heart of my family. My family truly loves LSN for all the hope and opportunities they have provided us.”
Lingering Health Issues and an Uncertain Future
Despite the substantial progress made by Bakala, lingering health issues remain, especially in the form of a continuing struggle with rising blood-sugar levels. Following the injury and subsequent surgery, Bakala’s blood-sugar levels peaked near 300, a dangerous precedent. Bakala hopes to acquire a 400 birr ($40) machine that regulates and monitors the levels, but the cost associated make it a difficult purchase for a man whose main household income at the moment is the $20 a month pension that comes from his previous employment/retirement with the police force.
In addition to his blood sugar complications, the main challenge facing Bakala is economic. With 7 children and two grandchildren under one roof and rising prices across all food and fuel sectors of the Ethiopian economy, life has become increasingly difficult.
Legal battles with his former employer are also on the horizon as Bakala seeks a resolution that will grant him the basic medical and rehabilitative costs owed him by the Telecom Company.
Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, it is clear that Bakala’s life has been deeply transformed through his participation with Landmine Survivors Network Ethiopia. The generous gratitude he displays towards the Network and their efforts is a testament to the impressive Survivor support and assistance operations that they have worked so hard to establish. On a personal note, the hospitality and kindness his family showed me was deeply moving and I hope to pay them one more visit before my departure in 10 days time.
Posted By Lucas Wolf
Posted Sep 25th, 2008