Portrait: Ronah

My name is Ronah Ankunda, aged 26 years and I come from Uganda. On June 1st, 2022 around 1:00am a sudden agonizing headache woke me up.

A little bit about Ronah

My name is Ronah Ankunda, aged 26 years and I come from Uganda. On June 1st, 2022 around 1:00am a sudden agonizing headache woke me up. It felt like I had been hit and I was bleeding. I remember reaching out to touch my head. It looked like everything was alright, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everything was so foggy and I panicked, grabbing my phone and car keys in an effort to take myself to the hospital. I managed to open the door and get outside but lost consciousness as soon as I stepped out.

I woke up in the hospital with no memory of how I got there. 

A caring neighbor told me she had heard a loud scream and had found me holding my head before blacking out. She decided to rush me to hospital as she called my mom and informed her of what happened. My mom informed the rest of my family members who were out of the country but managed to send family friends to be with me in the hospital.

After running some tests, the first doctor misdiagnosed me with a bacterial infection. Upon arrival, the family friends found me awake and complaining of a bad headache. It was the worst kind of headache you can imagine and they decided to send my lab report to another doctor. The doctor informed them that if I had a bacterial infection, I should be dead. The doctor advised them to take me for an MRI scan since I was complaining of a headache.


SAH diagnosis 

Next day I had an MRI and was diagnosed with a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. This was mostly due to ruptured aneurysm. It was this point through Google search I learnt how a third of SAH patients die immediately or soon thereafter. I was so scared and hopeless.

I was admitted to a Medical Hospital. Later, my family was informed that the surgery couldn’t be done in Uganda so I had to be transferred to either Nairobi, Kenya, where I have family, or South Africa. The decision was made to have the surgery in Nairobi, Kenya at Aga Khan University Hospital, where I met the best neurosurgeon, Dr Edwin Mogere, an endovascular and skull base specialist, and his team. Going into surgery, I was tired but hopeful. I woke up in High Dependent Unit (HDU) where my surgeon told my family that it was a complicated but successful surgery. 

I felt some relief knowing the worst was over, but nothing could have prepared me for what followed.


Encountering new challenges post-surgery 

A day after the surgery I suffered from Aphasia, the loss or impairment of language caused by brain damage and one of the most devastating cognitive impairments of stroke. As if that wasn’t enough, the next day I woke up with Hemiplegia, a paralysis that affects only one side of your body. My right side was affected and I had memory loss. This was one of the most challenging times in my life but also the time almighty God made sure I had all the resources; support from family and friends, and the best neurosurgeon in Kenya working to make sure I live to smile again. I will forever be grateful.


Finding support through Faith 

It’s been 6 months and while the recovery journey hasn’t been easy, I am thankful for the ability to speak, regain my memory and walk again. I continue to walk this journey with strong faith that I will continue to experience more progress in my healing. As it is said in the bible in the book of Jeremiah 30:17 "But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the LORD." I used to grieve my past life and sometimes wish I had died but I have found meaning and gotten closer to God through Celebrate Recovery, a support group at my church. I have come to accept and embrace my life right now.

My family is everything to me on this journey, and they have made it easy. Forever grateful.

Words of encouragement for survivors & caregivers

I had stopped enjoying my life and felt helpless however I do like taking forest walks, reading, traveling, swimming, watching movies, photography, cooking and knitting.

To fellow survivors: Healing is yours. It is very easy to keep looking back on your life and what could have been instead of focusing on the small moments of gratitude. When you speak words of faith over your situation, things happen. Miracles begin to be set into motion. When you come into agreement with what God’s Word says about you, power and healing are released.

To the care givers, understand the invisible side of Brain Injury. It can be tempting to think the person is fine when in fact they are not. Fatigue, depression, anxiety, and cognitive deficits can all manifest in subtle ways.

I’ve survived things that have killed others. My life is a message of hope. 

Before you go, help us spread the word...