One morning in February 2011, Justin Hakiri 44, a father of three started the day feeling unwell but moved on with his daily carpentry work. For him it was a simple illness.
For the next two months, Hakiri said he had ignored going for any medical checkup, “It started as a simple sickness but day by day it grew and felt worse.”
Little did Hakiri know that this would turn into a unique and important chapter in his life.
“One day while I was on my way to the hospital, I collapsed and was quickly given first aid,” He recalls.
Hakiri remained unconscious in hospital and was declared dead after two days and his body was to be sent to the mortuary waiting for final processing for burial.
However, when one of the doctors came to check on him, he realized that he was not dead as the nurse had reported; instead Hakiri was in a problematic situation.
Muhimpundu Adeline who is a current nurse at King Faisal Hospital told KT press that she was working at CHUK when Hakiri almost lost life.
“It was about 10:00am when his wife screamed that her husband had dead. I rushed to check if he was breathing, I examined him and for sure everything had stopped. I therefore made a statement and called the doctor,” She remembers.
“According to me, he was dead but the doctor who had the last word said he is not dead,” Muhimpundu recalls.
She said due to a lot of medicines Hakiri was given to treat his lung and liver diseases quickly, he reached a stage where some body organs wouldn’t function. He was placed on a life support machine for the next 40 days until he regained life.
How Hakiri Survived
These days Hakiri tells his friends that he had experienced death.
However, Muhimpundu says, “Hakiri suffered enough but again he can’t say he died and resurrected. He wasn’t declared dead because his death certificate wasn’t approved.”
Five years later, Hakiri told KTPress that he doesn’t really remember what happened after he collapsed on the way to hospital.
“I don’t easily recall what happened but I was told after two days I was declared dead,” Hakiri narrates but with a face seemingly in fear and smiling.
He is very thankful that it was by chance a doctor was able to recognize he is still breathing, though he was immediately taken to intensive care unit because he was unconscious.
“Staying in the hospital that long made me realize that we are made of dust as the bible says. There is no need for anyone to feel superior because death does not consider that,” He added.
When Hakiri recovered from coma, he was discharged from hospital and returned home.
His wife Mukandutiye Seraphine told KT Press that her husband died and it’s the doctor who gave him life again.
“I saw him dying with my own eyes, I called the nurse and she also said he is dead not until the doctor came and checked well then told us that he is still alive,” She remembers.
Taking a lot of beer and cigarettes almost took his life but I thank God now he is a saved Christian,” She spoke as tears rolled from her eyes.
“This is a story I don’t like talking about,” She excused herself.
Until today, Dr. Theobald Hategekimana told KT Press he still makes a follow-up on Hakiri’s health with regular checkups.
Kamanutsi Charles 59 a mortuary attendant for over 20 years at CHUK told KT Press that they haven’t experienced a case of finding someone alive placed in mortuary.
“I have worked here for long, that has never happened and I guess it is impossible because it takes a lot of process before a body is sent to the mortuary, ” He said.
“After one is declared dead, the doctor states a medical certificate that shows the cause of death. And other procedures like identification and cleaning the corpse thereafter the body is brought to mortuary,” He added.
Starting Coffin Business to Help Others
Hakiri considers what happened to him as an opportunity; he decided to start a coffins business. However, his family didn’t like his business decision. They thought he was just traumatised.
“It took me long to convince family that I wasn’t traumatised but it is work like any other,” Hakiri says.
His wife said her husband’s business confused them because they thought one day he would commit suicide.
“I thought he started the business to make his own coffin because he used to say he still smells death around him.” Mukandutiye said.
Hakiri says, “Like anyone else I feared death but after experiencing it I thought of engaging in this business so that I may help people. it’s one of the aims I live for.”
“I now make different coffins; the most cheapest costs 5000Rwf to the most expensive of over 150,000Rwf. I also make all sorts of furniture.”
However, Hakiri says, “Making coffins alone can’t help you survive because at times even a month ends without sales. It’s good to be creative.”
Besides selling coffins, beds, chairs and among other furniture, Hakiri also serves as head of advisory council in Gitega Sector.
Similarly, before Hakiri’s fate, he had lost a relative and family failed to get a coffin nearby until he travelled somewhere far away to buy it.
“I promised myself to make coffins so that I may be helping people with the similar experience,” He said.