Time to re­flect, ac­cept and re­cover

Friday - - Society - Kirstie Trup is do­nat­ing the free­lance fee for this piece to the Friends of Zanz­ibar Women’s Sober House and the Soup Kitchen, part of the Amer­i­can Church in Lon­don

go­ing to catch the peo­ple who did this.” Within five min­utes he was gone.

By that stage my mother and fa­ther had spo­ken to our insurance com­pany and a med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion plane was sched­uled to pick us up from the air­port for our repa­tri­a­tion.

That evening we waited for two hours on the airstrip for the de­layed plane, with the rear doors wide open to swarms of mos­qui­toes.

At that point all my burns were numb and I had lost all sen­sa­tion in the right side of my up­per body. We were placed on heavy sleep­ing med­i­ca­tion on the flight, which stopped in Kenya, Egypt and Italy to re­fuel be­fore land­ing at RAF Northolt in Lon­don.

Mum, Dad and my younger brother, Saul, met us at the air­port. Mum was in tears when we hugged. They as­sured me that the best sur­geons were await­ing us at the Chelsea and West­min­ster Hos­pi­tal be­fore Katie and I were taken there in sep­a­rate am­bu­lances.

We were given show­ers on ar­rival, our burns were pho­tographed, tests were con­ducted and our wounds were dressed. We were in­tro­duced to phys­io­ther­a­pists and psy­chol­o­gists and had a long dis­cus­sion with Andy Wil­liams, our in­cred­i­ble sur­geon.

I learnt that I would need a skin graft op­er­a­tion on three main ar­eas: my up­per right arm, the right side of my back and a smaller area on my right shoul­der. All the other wounds, in­clud­ing some mi­nor ones on my face, would heal on their own over time. My skin graft took place on Au­gust 15, which co­in­cided with the pub­li­ca­tion of the A-level re­sults. I found that I had landed a place at the Univer­sity of Bris­tol to read his­tory shortly be­fore I was taken into the op­er­at­ing the­atre.

Andy Wil­liams and his team ini­tially thought I would re­quire three op­er­a­tions, but they were able to com­plete all three pro­ce­dures in one three-hour ses­sion.

Thank­fully I have had no in­fec­tions and no longer re­quire any dress­ing for my wounds. How­ever, I have to wear a pres­sure garment, which looks like a short-sleeved Ly­cra T-shirt, to pro­tect the skin graft and help pre­vent the build-up of scar tis­sue in the af­fected ar­eas.

Also I’m banned from sit­ting in the sun for at least a year – which is a small price to pay, even though I once ob­sessed about sun­bathing.

In the week lead­ing up to my surgery I was dis­charged from hos­pi­tal, which up­set me be­cause I did not want to leave Katie be­hind. But I have sub­se­quently vis­ited her reg­u­larly and make a point of swing­ing past her room for a chat at least three times a week when I re­turn to the hos­pi­tal for check-ups.

While I was in hos­pi­tal I found ev­ery­thing too chaotic even to process what Katie and I had been through. But over the past few weeks I have found time to re­flect, ac­cept and re­cover.

Strangely, the day of our at­tack had started out be­ing the best day of my trip. I spent most of it at the Zanz­ibarWomen’s Sober House, which is a refuge for lo­cal women try­ing to over­come their drug ad­dic­tions.

I spoke to many of the women and gave them diaries, which I had pur­chased from the mar­ket that morn­ing, and told them to write down their thoughts over time. I thought that putting their thoughts down on pa­per might help them in their re­cov­ery.

Since my re­turn to Bri­tain I have asked my­self the same ques­tions ev­ery day: Why us? Why were Katie and I tar­geted? What mo­ti­vated our at­tack­ers? Had they been fol­low­ing us or watch­ing us for a while be­fore they de­cided to carry out their un­pro­voked as­sault?

So much has been writ­ten about the at­tack, but none of it goes any way to an­swer any of the ques­tions that still haunt me. There have even been base­less ru­mours pub­lished that Katie and I were attacked af­ter turn­ing down the men’s ad­vances. That’s rub­bish – we had never seen those men be­fore.

With each day that passes I re­flect on my time in Zanz­ibar with Katie and the fun we had – work­ing with the school­child­ren be­tween 7:30am and mid­day be­fore leav­ing for the Tembo Ho­tel to sun­bathe.

This was usu­ally fol­lowed by watch­ing the beau­ti­ful sun­set at the Maru Maru Ho­tel, then a few drinks at the Liv­ing­stone Bar, and per­haps a trip to the Tatu Bar af­ter­wards.

We laughed, sang and en­joyed ev­ery mo­ment we had in Zanz­ibar, all while be­ing re­spect­ful of what was re­li­giously ac­cept­able on the is­land.

There we were, two 18-year-old girls from North Lon­don hop­ing to make some dif­fer­ence in the world, while mak­ing the most of the life we’ve been given.

Such happy mem­o­ries have con­vinced me to re­turn to the is­land next year to do some more vol­un­tary work. But for the mean­time I am look­ing for­ward to start­ing my course at the Univer­sity of Bris­tol in a few weeks’ time.

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