The Woman in the Plaza
Week 2 Heading link
Angela O’Bryant, DNP Student
It all happened so fast and only lasted a second. I looked up, and there she was: a woman with no legs, scooting across the plaza with flip-flops on her hands. My nurse brain immediately went to a medical diagnosis. Maybe she has diabetes and had an above-the-knee amputation (AKA). She had no stumps that could be seen, so the amputation would have to have been just below the hip joint. A quick memory jog of my twenty-nine years of nursing, and I could not remember one single AKA that was so high, let alone bilateral. Then it hit me: the history in this country that I have been reading about and studying for several months. In the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, nearly 1 million Rwandans perished in 100 days. Much of the slaughter was by machete, and many of those that did not perish were left as amputees. Was this woman a victim of the Genocide? Did she lose her legs fleeing from her fellow citizens?
To date, I have read three books about the Genocide. However, none of them prepared me for seeing the woman in the plaza. It has been 28 years since the Genocide. Foreigners are discouraged from speaking about it or asking questions about it. I was lucky enough to sit next to a young Rwandan woman on the plane while traveling to Rwanda. We talked a lot about Rwandan culture, and she openly shared about the Genocide. Although it happened before she was born, she did lose her grandfather and other family members. She shared about the Reconciliation and how every April 7 through July 4, the country acknowledges the Genocide in memorial and concludes with a celebration of the liberation of the country by the Rwandese Patriotic Front over Major General Habyarimana’s reign.
In reflection, my public health background brings many unanswered questions. The new post-Genocide government developed Reconciliation Camps to help with the recovery process and the goal of national Reconciliation. But did the survivors also receive healthcare at health centers and hospitals? Could the woman in the plaza use a wheelchair? How does she bring groceries home if she is only mobile using her arms? Perhaps there be an opportunity for a prosthetic? Even just one leg? The image of the woman in the plaza will stay with me for a lifetime.
Angela O’Bryant is a DNP student in Advanced Population Health. She traveled to Rwanda in July 2022 for the Global Maternal-Child Health study abroad program. Angela’s focus is on understanding the cultural context of women’s health in Rwanda in relation to evidence-based practice recommendations. Angela holds a master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Virginia with an emphasis on Public Health Leadership. She also currently works as full-time faculty at the UIC College of Medicine Peoria campus.