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Through hell: Story of a Mother’s Day Prize winner

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th June 2003 03:00 AM

Anastasia Nnalongo Ntale has not sat since 1976. Her hip girdle broke so she has since been in the lying position. She was 35 and a mother of five when it all happened. Only a few years before, another mega catastrophe had hit her –– she had lost a pair of twins

Anastasia Nnalongo Ntale has not sat since 1976. Her hip girdle broke so she has since been in the lying position. She was 35 and a mother of five when it all happened. Only a few years before, another mega catastrophe had hit her –– she had lost a pair of twins

By Angela Kamugasa

Anastasia Nnalongo Ntale has not sat since 1976. Her hip girdle broke so she has since been in the lying position. She was 35 and a mother of five when it all happened. Only a few years before, another mega catastrophe had hit her –– she had lost a pair of twins.

Despite the challenges, Nnalongo never gave up her mothering role. Today, she lives to tell the story: “First of all, l thank God for bringing me and my daughter this far,” she says, with a loving glow in her eyes as she looks at Teopista Sekitto, her thirty-something-old daughter, in the eye.

“During Idi Amin’s regime, there was fuel scarcity. I was in a queue waiting to enter the bus when it happened.

“I had gone to see a relative in Nakasero. When we got back, I suggested we get a special hire but the cost was too high. I changed my mind and told my relative that we board a bus instead,” she narrates.

“I was fifth in line when a car run me over. It dragged me across the road and threw me in the trench,” she adds.

On Mother’s Day, this year, her children’s message won the best prize. The New Vision marketing and advertising department gave Anastasia a T-shirt.

She shares about her struggles: “All l recall of that fateful day, July 30, 1976, is standing in the queue. I gained consciousness four months later in Mulago hospital.”

Sekitto recalls: “Our father told us that mum was dead. People gathered at home and lit a fire for the vigil as they waited for the body to be brought home. After four days, we were told that she was actually not dead.”

Margaret Ntale, a nurse with Kyebando medical clinic, Anastasia’s oldest daughter, interjects: “As children, we were happy when mum did not come back because she used to smack us often. After four days, we became agitated.”

Shortly after the tragic accident, her husband, John Ntale, caused an accident as he worked for a neighbour using a tractor. He was thrown in jail, leaving the kids alone in Namutamba, Kitemu village.

After her husband’s release from prison, he stayed with his wife for two months in hospital. A year later, Margaret visited for two days.

“When mummy saw me, she cried. Both her legs looked very skinny. Back home, we sometimes slept outside because we were terrified of being inside the house,” Margaret narrates.

“In my third term holidays of P.6, I went to look after mummy in hospital. She got me a place in St. Martin Primary school for P.7, through friends. I would bathe her and make the bed.

“At lunchtime, I would buy her and myself food, then rush back to school. I would sleep under her bed in the hospital and read my books from there.”

Nnalongo says: “When l gained consciousness, I cried for my children. My neck, legs and teeth were damaged, so I felt a lot of pain. It was heartbreaking whenever I got reports about my children from people who came to see me, like Dr Kasirye, a family friend.”

One highlight of their mum’s stay in hospital was when Amin and Nasulu gave Christmas gifts to all the patients.

Ntale who was in P.3 then, reminisces: “We would sing that song Njabala njabala that mum should come from hospital and harvest the sweet potatoes from the garden.

“We were not used to fetching water and collecting firewood. We would cook matooke without peeling it then remove the peelings after it was ready and eat without sauce.”

Before her husband died in 1992, he had gotten another woman. Nalongo’s daughters say that it is too painful for their mother to talk about it.

With time, Nnalongo realised she was not going to improve. She insisted on being discharged but the hospital rejected her request. Her savings from the matooke sales sustained her in hospital but the situation got worse. There was no choice but to think of how to nurture her children.

She started knitting bedcovers, tablecloths and chair backs for a living to pay school fees and maintain her children.

Nnalongo also sold cigarettes on the black market (magendo) to doctors, nurses and patients to make ends meet. She concealed the carton of cigarettes under the bed, with a cloth because this was illegal.

After two years in hospital, her two young boys were brought to her. One of them suffered from marasmus due to poor nutrition. Profits from her sales enabled her buy milk, which improved their diet.

“They started becoming naughty by playing with a socket and caused a short circuit one time. People complained but the nurses then pleaded for me. I washed my children’s clothes from the hospital bed and someone would help with hanging,” she reveals.

During the 1979 war, we stayed in hospital while people came and took away their patients. When the bombing intensified, we run out of the hospital with me pushing mummy’s bed,” Margaret narrates.

“I run away and left her outside when she pleaded that I leave. But when I left, l felt uneasy and went back for mummy. When all was calm, we sneaked back into the hospital.

“For a whole week I ate rotten posho because that is all there was. Mummy would not eat posho. l used to buy her bananas,” she narrates.

The boys were safely staying with a relative during this turmoil. When she was discharged, doctors advised that she does not live 30kms away from hospital. She got a place to rent in Kyebando, where she later bought land and now owns a house. Her children are currently renovating the place. A heap of cement is visible in the compound.

She started a new life of making chapati, pancakes and hiring out wheelbarrows for a living. “When she was discharged after five years, she would mix dough from her bed for making chapatis and pancakes. I would roll the chapati, do the frying then sell to the school canteen.”

Through hell: Story of a Mother’s Day Prize winner

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