Zambian student fights for life after train crash
Racheal Mofya, an exchange student from Zambia, was in a coma for several weeks following a deadly train accident in Los Angeles in September. Photo courtesy of Pat Abruzzese
Rotarian Pat Abruzzese and his family drive 72 miles roundtrip every day to visit Racheal Mofya, an exchange student critically injured in a deadly train crash outside Los Angeles.
Mofya, 27, from Lusaka, Zambia, had been living with the Abruzzeses in Simi Valley, California, after winning a scholarship through a program sponsored by the Rotary clubs of Simi Sunrise and Lusaka.
On 12 September, three days before she was to complete a business degree at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles, the train she was taking home from classes collided with a freight train. Twenty-five people were killed.
Mofya suffered a fractured skull, several broken bones, and third-degree burns, and was in a coma for several weeks. She recently regained consciousness, is breathing on her own, and can move her hands and feet.
"This has been very tough on us all, but she is doing better every day," says Abruzzese, a member of the Simi Sunrise club. "She is so strong. We gain our strength through her."
Since the accident, Abruzzese; his wife, Joanne; and other members of their family have spent hours with Mofya every day in the intensive care unit at County-USC Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Her older sister, Martha, who is studying in Minneapolis, was flown to Los Angeles the day after the crash by the Simi Sunrise club.
"Our club has been unbelievably supportive during this difficult time," says Abruzzese. "They have made sure we have nothing to think or worry about, so that we can spend our time with Rachael."
Mofya won her scholarship to study in the United States in a contest that was part of a program sponsored by the Simi Sunrise and Lusaka clubs that is aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and employment in health care fields among Zambian youth. She was one of eight winners out of 200 applicants who submitted business plans.
Abruzzese says that Mofya, who has become "part of our family," wants to return to Lusaka and open her own cosmetics business and create jobs for other Zambians.
"During this whole time, she has been the strongest person," says Abruzzese. "I know her goal will be realized."