25thAugust 2015, Harare, Zimbabwe ;
A seemingly normal working day in the life of a 32 year old Prisca was coming to an end. Andrew, her husband picked her up from her workplace and they made their way home, stopping at an ATM for a short while to withdraw some money for herself and their kid’s school fee. Prisca had to pay for her upcoming examination for The Chartered Insurance Institute in October as well.
As they got home, Andrew went outside to open the locked gate while she remained seated on the passenger seat. He had left the car door slightly ajar.Prisca recalls how she heard someone making noises -which she realizes now –wasto draw her attention. As per the insidious intention of the attacker, Prisca turned her face around to make sense of all the hullabaloo, and before she knew it a cup of fuming liquid was splashed on her. Prisca vaguely remembers him uttering a few words where he accused her of being too “full of pride”, too “boastful” and her first reaction was to think of him to be a mentally disturbed person. She explains – her current composure in stark contrast with the horror of that moment – how with her face doused in a viscous smelly liquid, she ran out of the car screaming and shouting in shock and agony, straight into the backyard of her neighbours. “I thought it was tea but the woman told me it was acid. They kept telling me how it was acid and I kept repeating to myself that I will survive this.”
Soon after, people gathered around me, panicking, throwing water at all my burns and with each splash that hit my face, my body, I felt as if I was set afire. “I begged them to send me to the hospital and throughout the way I grappled with hope and faith by uttering fervent prayers”, remembers Prisca.
With a feeble consciousness and a blurry vision, Prisca was driven down to the hospital where the doctors began washing her with saline water, but that is all the help they could extend. They told her that they don’t have enough faculties to treat her and she had to be shifted to another hospital by the name of PARIRENYATWA HOSPITALS. By now her mother had also arrived with her friends.
Andrew, after the mishap was behaving hysterical. He was screaming loudly because of which everyone thought that he too had been attacked. So both of them were taken to the hospital. The doctor informed Prisca that she had sustained 42 percent burn injuries. At that moment she had vision in both her eyes. She was then shifted to ICU special burn ward. There they washed her again. “My skin by then had become so hard, so brittle that you could tap on it and it would sound like a hollow, decaying wooden box” , says Prisca gently running her fingers over her scarred face.
Next afternoon, Andrew escorted by a nurse, came to visit her during the lunch hours. He too was under observation. Around the same time the police came to investigate and take a general statement. Andrew gave his statement after which he sat down next to her. Prisca keeps repeating with a tinge of remorse how this is the last of the memories of her husband. Hetold her that he will always love her, even if she is scarred and disfigured. Prisca responded to him by assuring him that she would bounce back just fine and that it’s only a passing phase, together they shall overcome all the obstacles. Thereafter he went back home, and all of a sudden in a few hours he went missing, never to be found again. The doctor advised Prisca’s family and friends to hide this news from her as she was already suffering from a lot of physical and mental trauma. After a few days Prisca was taken in to get her outer skin removed and she recalls how she could feel her vision improving. But no sooner did she feel this way than another realization began to dawn upon her, “My eyelids were damaged making the remainder part of my eyes very sensitive and prone to drying up. I felt as if the doctors were just treating me for formality. They did not believe that I could make it that’s why all their attention was to just keep me alive and all along neglected the eyes completely.”
After a month of exfoliation, Prisca was advised skin drafting for her face. The first time they did not touch the eyes but after two weeks when they started the upper eye reconstruction they realized that her cornea was badly damaged. Due to negligence in terms of tight bandaging, lack of lubrication and ointment application the cornea had dried up completely. She needed cornea replacement. They tried their best to save her vision, but eventually complete vision in her right eye was gone. At first she did not realize that she was only able to see with her one eye, but after a medical examination it was proven otherwise.
Prisca tells us how the surgeons back home only looked out to treat her wounds but did not pay much heed to her looks.They advised her to go in for plastic surgery but there is only one plastic surgeon in the country and the entire procedure would turn out to be way beyond their means. That’s when she was advised to come to India. She visited Apollo Hospital where they performed skin drafting on her face, reconstructed her upper lip and her eyelids and also conducted a surgery to remove the contracture around her neck.
Currently Prisca is travelling back and forth from Zimbabwe to India periodically in order to undergo surgeries . Because of her grave injuries she is unemployed and not earning anything. She has two little kids waiting for their Mamma to get alright. She shares how her son calls her up everyday to ask if she is able to see yet. “My daughter (4) refused to recognize me after the attack, she got afraid to be around me, but now slowly she is coming around”, says a brave and hopeful Prisca.
All of Prisca’s meager funds have been exhausted because of numerous surgeries, extensive travels and the responsibilities of her little children. To regain vision in her left eye- the chances of which are very bright-Prisca requires cornea replacement urgently
Prisca is a beautiful soul with strong determination to heal, to get better. She wants to fulfill the promise she made to her children that she would be able to see their faces again. With prayers on her lips and hope in her heart she fights on.