When life, death have same meaning

The Herald

Tadious Manyepo-Features Writer

HE has made the ultimate sacrifice. But 56-year-old Mr George Hwami would rather suppress the echoes in that loud statement.

He doesn’t love attention. Or he is media shy. 

His love for children is unparalleled. Being a teacher, children have been part of his life for the past three decades.

He still drills them at Nhamburiko Primary in Highfield.

He named his four offspring rhythmically too. K, K, K and K, for Kudzai (30) now a mother of two, Kumbirai (28), Kundai (11) and Kupakwashe (3).

He has moulded engineers, lawyers, doctors among other sought-after fields in his teaching service. Not disregarding the hard nuts who have chosen the wrong direction to earn a living of course.

But he never imagined, not even in his wildest thoughts, that one day his conscience would lead him into making a delicate decision, in a matter of days.

A decision which doesn’t mean life or death but somewhere between the two.

His nephew, five-year old Leon Shumbairerwa is battling for his life after being diagnosed with a rare condition called hepatopulmonary syndrome due to acute liver cirrhosis.

Mr George Hwami and his nephew Leone Shumbairerwa.

He is on oxygen, carrying a nine-kilo cylinder wherever he is to aid him in his artificial breathing.

That comes with about $6 000 per day in monetary burden for the family.

So bad is the condition that oxygen is bypassing the boy’s lungs.

The only way out, though feint, is for a liver transplant procedure which has to be performed at the Artemis Hospital in Gurugram, India.

That comes with a hand and an arm in terms of expenses.

About US$41 000 is needed. Not only that hefty amount. A donor for a piece of liver to replace Leon’s is also a prerequisite.

And that comes with conditions too.

A matching blood group and other suiting factors.

The Government is touched with the boy’s plight and through President Mnangagwa, avails the money. The boy’s father Mr Piniel Shumbairerwa is the natural choice for the liver piece and he duly steps up.

Everything is in order till the beginning of January 2022.

After meeting all the conditions, Mr Shumbairerwa somehow develops cold feet and chickens out of the arrangement.

That leaves everything in disarray.

No one would really blame him. It’s a life and death undertaking.

Confused, depressed, stressed and feeling cursed, Leon’s mother Ms Nyasha Mhandu Shumbairerwa makes one last throw of the dice.

She reluctantly consults her family with the forlorn hope of finding someone who could possibly put their body on the line.

And Mr Hwami, who is sister to Leon’s maternal grandmother, silently raises his hand.

He goes on to inform Ms Mhandu of his decision but keeps it a secret from the entire family as well as all but two of his Nhamburiko Primary School workmates.

He goes on to inform his eldest daughter Kudzai who, though perplexed, keeps it to herself as per her father’s instruction.

Mr Hwami applies for 10 weeks’ leave from work and gets the approval. 

“We went for all the required tests and everything matched,” said Mr Hwami.

“I knew I would either die in theatre or I would survive. But seeing Leon in the condition he was in made my heart bleed. I was prepared for any outcome as all I wanted to see was Leon smiling like what other children do. I had to be courageous.

“I did all this without even my wife’s (Mrs. Lina Hwami nee Samuwi) knowledge. I didn’t want to be discouraged in the middle of the processes which I had already begun.

“I only told her when I was about to fly out. She was nervous at first but being Seventh Day Adventist worshippers, she said we would have to pray, always.”

Leon and his mother were the first to leave for India in early January for the former had to go through several tests before the operation.

Mr Hwami who was boarding a plane for the first time knew it could be his first and also the last as he left Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport aboard Ethiopian Airways.

“My mind was spinning. I didn’t enjoy it until I was on the connecting flight to India. I kept on praying until I met my niece (Nyasha) and her child (Leon) who was already admitted at Artemis Hospital where the op would take place awaiting my arrival.

“I went through several interviews where they even asked me whether I had been promised anything by the child’s mother…”

That was late January into early February.

The operation went on concurrently for close to 17 hours.

It was successful.

“Then for four days I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. That was the hardest phase in my life. I started feeling the pain.

“The experience was horrific and I was seeing non-existent things but after four days of stabilization, I was up again and Leon was also up. We stayed there some few more weeks until we left early this week.”

His wife Mrs Lina Hwami Samuwi said she was fasting and praying until she was told the operation had been successful.

“My husband’s decision to donate the organ was a bit scary for me. However, we couldn’t stop him, instead we just decided to put everything in God’s hands. We always prayed and I thank the Almighty for everything went on well,” she said.

Leon’s family was at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to welcome the little boy who left in January unable to walk by himself but returned exactly the opposite.

Ms Nyasha Mhandu Shumbairerwa is still blown away with the selflessness displayed by her uncle up to this day.

“Imagine Mr Hwami is the brother of my late mother. He didn’t do it to please my mother who is dead but he did it from deep inside his heart. I don’t have any words to really describe how I am feeling seeing him,” she said.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Deputy Minister Kindness Paradza who saw off the boy to India and also headed the delegation that welcomed him in Harare on Monday saluted President Mnangagwa for his benevolence while he heaped praise on Mr Hwami.

“Indeed the Second Republic under the stewardship of President Mnangagwa has shown that it has its people at heart. To Mr Hwami, who donated part of his liver, such kind of love is unparalleled,” said Minister Paradza.

Mr Hwami was born in Harare and bred in Chivhu attending Zinatsa Primary School before moving to Zengeza High 1 for his secondary education. 

He then enrolled at Mutare Teachers College in 1989 before graduating in 1991.

He will be back at work when schools open for the second term on May 3. His liver will re-grow to its original size in the next four to six months while Leon is expected to fully recover in the next six to eight months thanks to Mr Hwami, a hero without a cap.

The Herald