A 75-year-old missionary from Cookstown was yesterday up and walking around her hospital ward in west Africa – only two days after a bullet passed right through her ribs.
Maud Kells was hit twice during an armed robbery at her home in Mulita in the north-east of the vast and heavily-forested Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Sunday evening.
Yesterday the News Letter reported that Ms Kells had been hit once in the shoulder and once in the ribs but had not suffered any broken bones or serious muscle damage.
Her local minister in Cookstown, Rev Tom Greer of Molesworth Presbyterian Church, has now revealed that her injuries were actually much more serious – and yet she is already back on her feet.
He revealed that she had been shot in the side and actually suffered a broken rib but that doctors say she is now up on her feet and walking around the ward.
“The bullet passed right through her,” Rev Greer told the News Letter.
“Initially, there was a lot of bleeding but it was brought under control.
“It is miraculous really - for the bullet to pass through her side – it could have done any organ major damage, never mind the heart.”
He added: “We continue to pray for the people who remain in the village.”
Ms Kells is the only foreign national living long term in the village, he added.
It is not known whether anyone else was injured in the attack.
Ms Kells’ sister Margaret Keane disclosed that she was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours after helping build a school with seven classrooms, a hospital and bridge in a country with little infrastructure after years of war.
She added: “She believes it was God calling her, that a light was needed in that part of the country.”
Ms Kells is from Cookstown in Co Tyrone and trained as a nurse in Belfast but has been in DRC since 1968, based in the eastern half of the country surrounding Goma, a city previously associated with conflict and rebellion.
She has been evacuated from danger in the past, her minister in Northern Ireland said.
Ms Keane said she was being well-attended to by medics.
The humble Bible teacher has previously had to reconstruct many buildings, including her own house, after it was ransacked by rebels who left none of her belongings behind, according to reports.
The hospital she helped to build has also come under frequent attack and much equipment has been stolen.
She was awarded the OBE for services to people in the DRC.
Ms Keane added: “She has made a real difference – it is a completely different life there now.”
Ms Kells has organised the building of a bridge over a river which was once spanned by only a tree trunk, a school with seven classrooms, and hospital maternity and surgical wards.
A primary school has even been named after her.
Her sister added: “That is her life, helping people in Africa.
“She was delighted and humbled at receiving the OBE but she said she was glad for being away from the publicity.”
She said the infrastructure was poor in a part of the country affected by war with neighbouring Rwanda, a spillover from the 1994 genocide.
A guard was kept at the missionary village where she lives and at times of danger people fled into the canopy of trees which covers much of the country.
Despite the challenges, Ms Keane said her sister felt God’s calling when she first went there.
She explained: “There were only two missionaries at that time but after they retired she said she would go down. She insisted that she would be OK and the Lord was looking after her.”
:: Video clip was taken during Maud’s visit to Coookstown in March 2014