An urgent appeal from a Youth Village in Rwanda came through to me via our website in April this year. An Israeli doctor, Dr Dalit, working in the village had detected a heart defect in one of their residents namely Victoire and the appeal was to have a definitive diagnosis followed by corrective heart surgery, if possible.
The story of Victoire Nzamukunda Murekatete is an incredible one, as, on acceptance to the WSPCCA, she was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect that very few children would ever survive beyond the age of 5. How she had survived to age 18 was a miracle, but Victoire’s remarkable resilience and perseverance started long before we met her…..
She was born in Kanombe, Rwanda. At two years of age, her family was massacred in the 1994 Genocide, and she was taken to Congo by the fleeing Interahamwe who raised her and became the only family she really knew. At age 7 years, Victoire’s only surviving aunt learned of her existence and brought her back to Rwanda to live with her. Unfortunately, the aunt became ill and went to Uganda for treatment where she died shortly after arriving in Uganda, leaving Victoire alone in the world. Neighbors took her in, but they were unable to deal with her illness and took her to the authorities who provided her with basic care.
Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) learned of her existence, and she was selected to join the Village in December of 2009. The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is a comprehensive educational and developmental project that cares for orphans in Rwanda. Currently 250 young boys and girls who would not have a future otherwise live there and receive a wonderful education at the Village’s school.
Upon her arrival at Agahozo-Shalom, Victoire had a very compromised health and immune system. After she was diagnosed as having a heart defect, the Village immediately began looking for treatment and engaged expert cardiologists around the globe to identify the best way to fix her heart and save her life. It was then that an appeal came through to me at WSPCCA and Victoire made the journey from the village to Johannesburg, where we received her together with a social worker, Sonia.
Victoire’s cardiac catheterisation was done by Dr Antoinette Cilliers at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Shortly thereafter Victoire needed to be admitted to hospital as she became very nauseous and ill. The selection committee at WSPCCA decided that the surgery should be done within days and although extremely complex, the surgery was extremely successful. Vicotire did remarkably well in the first week post operatively. However due to her weakened immune system, she picked up an infection that very soon became systemic and her whole body became infected. Sonia, the wonderful social worker had to return to Rwanda and two more wonderful people took over the vigil- Sifa and Joseph.
Victoire displayed remarkable tenacity and hung desperately onto the hope of recovery and of returning to her village. She constantly enquired after the news of the children and was encouraged her with music and a visit to meet Mama Albertina Sisulu.
Sadly though, her infectious state rapidly sapped her little body and she was placed yet again on full lie support. We witnessed this and prayed for a miracle to help to save Victoire. A week ago, things looked very bleak and Dr Kinsley made the decision that nothing more could be done for Victoire, but, she continued to fight and once again rallied, so treatment was continued.
Victoire took a very rapid turn for the worse and peacefully slipped away from us. We take comfort in the knowledge that although we do not yet know or comprehend the meaning of Victoire’s time in our lives, we have forged common bonds with the many people who cared for Victoire and who live to make their difference in the lives of indigent children like Victoire.
To all who touched Victoire’s life we at the WSPHF say thank you. This includes Victoire’s Rwandan family of Anne, Jean Pierre, Tamar, Sonia, Dalit, Sifa and Joseph and here in South Africa, the WSPCCA team of Patsy, Jacqui and Nanaand also the wonderful staff of CTICU and Dr Kinsley, his team and Dr Cilliers. We return Victoire to her country of birth and take comfort in knowing that we gave her hope and a chance to have dreamed of a future…..may she rest in peace, may she run through the Kingdom of Heaven and may her laughter and sweet song live on.