A woman who has lived with a bullet in her throat for 15 years is now seeking compensation.
For 45-year-old Jerusa Mwale, life has never been the same since the day she was injured by a stray bullet as officers from Luanda Police Station in Vihiga pursued highway robbers who had hijacked a lorry ferrying milk to Luanda market.
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“It was lunchtime on August 3, 2003 and I was in my shop with my sisters when we heard gunshots. The thieves came running and entered the shop as police opened fire on them,” said Ms Mwale.
According to her, she saw blood and thought it was from one of the robbers who had been shot. She lost so much that she fainted.
“I gained consciousness 30 minutes later while at the Kisumu International Airport. I heard my husband, Daniel Liboyi, telling me, ‘don’t leave me now, we are almost to the hospital’ and fainted again,” she said.
“I woke up after three days and found myself in the intensive care unit surrounded by doctors and family members. I didn’t know I had been shot. One of the doctors told me I was lucky to be alive after being hit by a bullet.”
She said the doctors told her the bullet had hit her when its momentum was greatly reduced, perhaps after first passing through an obstacle.
Mwale said they also told her the bullet was attached to her veins and if it was removed, she would die.
“The doctors treated me and I was discharged after a week. The wound healed after three weeks and I became a State witness. Police had arrested one of the five gangsters who survived after being shot.”
Mwale said the suspect was jailed and she enquired from the police whether she would be compensated, but they were non-committal.
She was told to look for an advocate and file a case in court. Since she had no money to start the process and the matter was shelved.
“What I want is to be compensated since the bullet that hit me was as a result of police negligence when pursuing the gangsters. I want the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) to compensate me for the pain and suffering I have endured,” Mwale said.
She also wants the Government to help her and her husband, who is unemployed, to set up another business to enable them to raise their family.
Mwale said that after she was shot, her entire stock of slippers and shoes was looted, crippling any further trade. The family spent Sh236,000, savings from her business, to pay the hospital bill, causing the business to collapse.
“I now sell maize storage bags to earn a living. I cannot carry heavy loads on my head since it will complicate the situation. My voice has changed and you must be a good listener to hear what I am saying. When it is cold, my body itches and it is very painful,” she said.
Mwale has four children; two sons and two daughters. Her oldest son, Nicanory Liboyi, is now 23. He remembers coming home from school and hearing that police had shot his mother. Everybody thought she had died but he would later learn that she had survived.
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“We were emotionally hurt but God intervened. But since then, my mother's life has changed. The Government should be compelled to compensate us so that we can go to school,” said Nicanory.
According to Samuel Simiyu, a surgeon at the Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital, it is possible for a person to have a normal life with a bullet lodged in their body.
He told The Standard that if during surgery doctors realised that removing the bullet would result in the patient’s death, it would be left.
“You can live with a bullet in the spinal cord, brain and even throat. It has no effect on the victim but if she feels it is affecting her, she should seek medical advice,” said Dr Simiyu.