Sunday, January 28, 2018

Depressed woman survived shooting herself, now helps other trauma victims

At around 7am on a foggy October morning in 2010, former data management specialist Christen McGinnes, then 41, set about cleaning the two-bedroom apartment she shared with her roommate. She tidied up the living room and kitchen, trying to make it look nice for the people she knew would be seeing it later.  But this wasn’t because she’d invited friends or family round for a happy social gathering. Instead, it was because later that morning she planned to end her own life by shooting herself in the head, and knew that in a few hours, after her roommate came back from work and found her body, her home would be swarming with police and the emergency services. What she could never have predicted, however, is that when she pulled the trigger, she would survive to tell the tale. "I used to love life," says Christen. 


Christen said she lived a charmed life before her suicide attempt
"Up until 2009, I would even say I had a charmed life; I had great friends, I loved my job and I was dating a really nice guy. I was a happy, normal person. But then everything started to go wrong." First, Christen lost her job, which she’d had for 18 years, after staff cutbacks. Then her beloved grandmother died, followed soon after by her pet dog. Christen’s relationship also ended, and she started having money problems as, with no income, she was relying on her savings. "I hadn’t been sleeping well, and I started having panic attacks," she recounts. She tried to soldier on, but she was becoming more and more depressed. "I had asked a few people for help," she admits, "but I felt like a burden, going on about my problems, so I isolated myself." Month followed miserable month, and eventually, on that fateful morning in October, Christen got out of bed after yet another sleepless night and thought about killing herself. "I just didn’t see a way out. It took me about an hour to decide to do it, and once I did, I felt at peace. It was a conscious, deliberate decision. I didn’t want to phone anyone to discuss what I was planning to do, as I’d got to the point where I couldn’t bear to be a burden any more." Selfless up until the end, her main concerns were how to minimise the mess the shooting would leave, and be as considerate as possible towards others. She realised that tidying the apartment wouldn’t do much good if the place ended up covered in blood, so she decided she would pull the trigger out on the balcony. Christen chose her method of suicide, in part, so she could still help others.  "I wanted to shoot myself in the head because I’m an organ donor, so I wanted to preserve as much of myself as possible," she explains.

The blast shattered her jawbone

With everything prepped to her satisfaction, and just one hour after making her decision, Christen decided it was time to act.  "I remember everything about those last moments," she says. "I picked up a little Christmas ornament in the shape of an angel to put in my hand. Then I went out onto the balcony and sat down with my gun, a .357 revolver I kept for protection, then said a quick prayer. And then I pulled the trigger…" To her surprise, the gun just clicked. There were five chambers, but she’d only loaded four bullets.  "I basically won at Russian Roulette," she jokes. "I laughed. I thought, 'I can’t believe that after everything I’ve failed at, I failed at this too.'" Christen wondered if it was a sign that she shouldn’t go through with it, but
she stiffened her resolve and put the gun back up to her chin. This time when she pulled the trigger, it didn’t click.  "The noise was so loud," she says, "and almost immediately I couldn’t see." However, unbeknownst to Christen, her roommate was asleep in the next room.

"The next thing I knew was hearing him scream, 'What’s that? What’s happening?', and I thought, 'Oh my God, he wasn’t supposed to be home.' He came running out to the balcony and the noise that came out of his mouth was the shrillest, most panicked shriek I’ve ever heard."  The bullet had blown off Christen’s right jawbone, shattered a third of her teeth and her tongue, destroyed her right sinus, bounced off the bone of her nose and exploded, destroying her right eye, although it didn’t pierce her skull. Christen was still holding the angel when she passed out, and the last thing she heard was ambulance sirens in the distance. 

After spending three weeks in the Fairfax Inova Hospital in Virginia in a coma, she finally woke up to find her father holding her hand.  The very first thing I remember is seeing him, and him saying, 'The only thing you have to do is heal; everything else is being taken care of. Everything will be OK – you just have to get better.' He told me I’d been saved for a reason, and we were going to find out what that reason was."  Christen had beaten some very slim odds to be alive – only 3% of people who try to commit suicide by gunshot survive. She found out that while she’d been in the coma, so many of her friends and family came to see her that the hospital lifted the restriction of only two visitors at a time, and her bed was surrounded by flowers, cards and gifts. Lying there, Christen experienced an emotion she’d never expected to feel: she was happy to be alive.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Majaliwa wants Butiama’s accounts be audited

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa has ordered a special audit to be conducted in the Butiama District Executive Director’s office over misapplication of funds, and that the Tanzania Building Agency (TBA) regional manager be arrested and questioned for failure to execute construction of the district council’s office. The officials to be investigated include the Butiama District Executive Director, Mr Solomon Ngiliule, as well as the district council’s accountant and procurement officer, Mr Masanja Sabuni and Mr Robert Makendo, respectivelyMr Majaliwa issued the order while addressing local councillors and staff of Butiama District Council over the weekend, noting with concern that the DED office had been diverting funds allocated by the central government for development projects to other activities, contrary to the law. He instructed the Mara Acting Regional Administrative Secretary, Mr Raphael Nyanda, to assign auditors to conduct a special audit in the DED office while instructing the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to arrest and question the TBA Regional Manager, Eng Peter Salim. “The officials in the DED office should be investigated over the questionable use of development funds, including 12m/- spent on preparing the district council’s profile. “There is also questionable expenditure of 70m/- and 288m/- allocated to the education sector and a water project in Butiama. The government cannot tolerate such acts. Furnish me with a report when the audits are done,” Mr Majaliwa instructed. The Prime Minister revealed that the government dished out 600m/- to TBA in April last year, but construction work was yet to commence. In his defence, the TBA Mara Regional Manager, Eng Salim explained that the project required 3bn/- upon completion, stating that 400m/- out of the 600m/- the government disbursed was spent on laying the project’s foundation. Eng Salim’s explanation was vehemently opposed by Butiama District Commissioner Ms Anna-Rose Nyamubi, who informed the PM that the state-owned building agency had just “excavated some holes and erected an iron steel structure meant to be a store but nothing was being done at the site. ” At this juncture, the PM reminded the officials that the government was working around the clock to improve the working environment for its employees, including construction of offices, stressing that the government would not tolerate whoever thwarted the efforts. After his arrival in Butiama accompanied by his wife Mama Mary Majaliwa, the Premier paid homage to the grave of the Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, at Mwitongo village, where he also met and held talks with the widow of the fallen statesman, Mama Maria Nyerere. Mr Majaliwa and his wife placed a wreath on Mwalimu’s grave and thereafter took part in a prayer session with residents, led by Chief Japheth Wanzagi of the Wazanaki tribe.

Service improvements at Dar port brings hope

Sweeping reforms for service improvement at the Dar es Salaam Port have started yielding results, with especially transporters enjoying thriving businesses. Tanzania Truck Owners Association (TATOA), a union of key cargo haulers to/ from the landlocked countries, has lately experienced business growth, thanks to a huge increase in cargo at the port. “We are going through an impressive business trend...we registered a record 35 per cent increase in cargo last year,” TATOA Chairperson Angelina Ngalula told the ‘Daily News’ in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, adding. .and there are signs of bright future.”Soon after assuming office in November 2015, President John Magufuli introduced tough measures to cleanse the rot at the country’s largest sea port, vowing to squarely deal with all elements of theft, embezzlement and tax evasion. The President’s move sparked uproar, leading to an abrupt drop of cargo ships at the facility. Some critics blamed the cleansing move, accusing the Head of State of crippling the port. But, Dr Magufuli remained adamant, declaring: “I’m willing to see even one ship docking at the port monthly but adequately paying our taxes rather than having hundreds of them, with no tax collected.” Almost all stakeholders are today grateful to the President. “We indeed thank President Magufuli...he has created great business for us,” said Ms Ngalula. Among the reforms that have boosted business at the port include improved infrastructure, intensified security on cargo, removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on transit services and reduced road blocks. “Cases of stolen cargo at the Dar es Salaam port are history today,” boasted Ms Ngalula. 

The country’s serious marketing strategy, which Dr Magufuli himself spearheaded, has also worked well for the country. “During his reign, he (President Magufuli) has worked hard to cement commercial relations with Rwanda, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are the major users of our port,” said the TATOA Chairperson. Transporters and the Tanzania Port Authority (TPA) management too visited individual big clients in the landlocked countries and South Africa to convince them to use the Dar es Salaam facility. During the period, President Magufuli also extended a free storage offer to the Congolese from the traditional 15 to 30 days of free storage. The offer has attracted more Congolese importers and exporters to the port. “Our customers are indeed happy with this (Dar es Salaam) port...that is why they are giving us good business,” a driver whose truck plies the Dar -Zambia route said in the city over the weekend. Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS) said in its recent report that it had for the first time handled over 500,000 TEU in one year, registering a record annual throughput of 501,690TEUs.