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UAMS, Community Helps Rwandan Man Paralyzed in Car Crash

Rugamba knew he was in a car accident, but didn’t know the extremities. It wasn’t until his friends told him that he was ejected from his car and it took two hours for rescue crews to find him.
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Jean Rugamba didn’t know he was paralyzed from his chest down when he woke up in a hospital bed on July 20.

Rugamba knew he was in a car accident, but didn’t know the extremities. It wasn’t until his friends told him that he was ejected from his car and it took two hours for rescue crews to find him.

“The fact that I’m talking right now, the fact that I can do what I used to do, the fact that I can go to school, yeah that’s a blessing,” he said.

His situation worsened when it was time to release him from the hospital. Rugamba didn’t have a discharge plan, family or money for 24-hour care.

Sending him back home to Rwanda, country in central Africa was an option.

“See for me that was not an option.”

Rugamba got his Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and chemistry at Birmingham Southern College in Alabama. He shortly moved to Little Rock to settle in, work and make friends.

He was about to head back to school in August to get his PhD in mathematics, but his plans were interrupted due to the crash. After working with him in physical therapy and hearing his story, staff at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences decided to help.

“They really helped me survive,” Rugamba told FOX 16 reporter Leah Uko.

“People here don’t just work here. I think they care about the patients.”

In partnership with Baptist Health, UAMS got Rugamba extended in-patient physical therapy, a charity bed for the next phase of therapy and got his older brother’s visa approved so he could come to the United States to assist Rugamba once he is released from the hospital.

“It’s a different world for them,” said Dr. Michael Sutherland with UAMS. “Having someone that’s there, that’s available to help 24 hours a day becomes very important, especially in the early phases.”

Doctors, physical therapists, nurses and clinical social workers will help Rugamba recover until he is strong enough to go home. They hope for him to be better by January so he can go back to school.

During his interview, Rugamba thanked some of the staff for their help, especially Ginger Stafford who was a clinical social worker.

“People are people and you care about them,” said Ginger Stafford. “We want the best for people. That’s what we do.”

Even though Rugamba’s life will never be the same, he found a way to focus on, what he said, was the blessing in disguise, he was alive and had kind people to thank.

“There’s a lot of bad stuff outside, but you know the world keeps moving because there’s nice people.”

Leah Uko contributed to this story. To follow Leah on Twitter click here. To connect with her on Facebook click here.
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