Friday, January 25, 2013

Betty: From death to good health


Betty with her husband Norman
When Lusaka based Café Royale` owner Betty Chime Daka and her husband Norman Brown hosted their customers for an evening of free cocktail drinks and food to mark the restaurant’s first birthday, it was an evening to remember.

Apart from celebrating the once derelict place that has been transformed into a classic eatery, 35 year-old Betty who has been married to Norman for the last 15 years had much more to cerebrate. For behind the glittering marble floor, the colourful furniture, fancy menu, good food and drinks obtainable at Café Royale` lies a story of tragedy that marked the beginning of Betty’s business dream of flying the Zambian flag among global food franchises.

In 2009 on a fateful day, Betty was involved in a car crash when the vehicle she was travelling in on Great East Road lost control and plunged into a side ditch.

She was rushed to University Teaching Hospital (UTH) with life threatening injuries.
Local doctors discovered after operating on her that there was little they could do for her.

She was promptly airlifted to Milpark hospital in South Africa where, having lapsed into a coma, she was placed in intensive care as teams of doctors fought to keep her alive.

“They operated on me at least 20 times to remove a kidney, to put the half of one kidney with the other half. They worked on my liver that was damaged, the intestines that were crushed; there was a lot of damage inside and my body weight had become three or four times because if your kidneys are not functioning you are retaining water.If your liver is also not working, that means you start becoming yellow and infection comes into play,” Betty recounted.

Most of the surgeries were done while Betty was in a coma. And according to her, the doctors knew that it would be by sheer luck that she was going to pull through and lead a normal life.

She was hooked to thirteen life-support machines. Her brain was barely working because she was on morphine and a lot of other drugs.

“I was realistically pronounced dead. But my husband did not agree and the doctors said they were going to continue fighting for me. They said that if I was not going to come back to consciousness within two months, and overlap on the timespan that they had given me, they were going to ask my husband whether they should switch off the life supporting machines or continue,” said Betty who, by then had developed Septicemia – an infection caused by blood contamination. She had an open stomach for more than one year.

The doctors were afraid that the more drugs she received, the more serious side effects she was going to have.

Betty miraculously came out of coma before the due date, two months after the accident and went through a tough period of therapy and recovery with the support of her husband.

Today, Betty is a walking miracle. She says the road accident that nearly took her life had made her look at life differently.

She sometimes gets forgetful and her speech slows. But she does not allow these shortcomings to dissuade her from living a normal life.

Her attempt to move on paid dividends in August 2011 when she and Norman happened upon a vacant shop on Cairo road in Lusaka.

Betty with her customers
The couple renovated the shop and opened Café Royale.`

According to Betty’s Uncle, Ambassador Kapembe Nsingo, the couple’s efforts to refurbish the shop were also extended to the reconstruction of their lives especially in the case of Betty who was still recovering.

Betty described Café Royale as a business of ups and downs. But she believes that businesses are never smooth sailing and their ups and downs must be used as learning opportunities.

She said the most popular dish at Café Royale` is ribs, although the restaurant has distinguished itself by catering for customers with special needs.

Betty’s vision is to grow Café Royale` into a leading brand with more outlets in terms of franchises on the scale of America’s Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and McDonald’s.
Having come back from certain death to see her business clock one year, Betty has consigned her tragic past to history and is focused on clocking yet another successful year at Café Royale`. PYM