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Survivor story – Christine Buchanan

  • August 2016
  • Posted By GunFreeSA

A New Christine.

ChristineIn the early hours of the morning, Christine Buchanan’s reality was shattered as intruders broke into her home and shot both Christine and her husband.  She shares her story of survival.   

“I awoke in the early hours of 29 December 2007 and saw intruders in our bedroom. I turned to alert my husband Charles. I expected Charles to tell me to do as I was told (I am the feisty one, he is the calm one) but to my utter surprise he jumped on the intruder closest to him and started screaming, hitting and punching him. I started hitting another intruder. I have no idea how much time passed; it seemed to take forever, yet was over in an instant. Suddenly I saw a flash of light, felt a stinging sensation at the base of my neck and fell down as I heard the gunshot. I heard a second shot and then they were gone.

Charles had been pistol-whipped on the head and with blood pouring into his eyes he couldn’t see. I stayed calm and told him to wipe his face and tried to staunch the bleeding in my neck. I tried to call the emergency services twice but the line went dead. I finally called Sandton Emergency Clinic. Charles went out to open the security gate and I heard him bellowing for help, then silence. I had no way of knowing if he was alive or dead.

The paramedics, accompanied by a neighbour, arrived within a seemingly short time. I was lying flat on my back, afraid to sit up in case I lost consciousness or sustained brain damage. We were taken to Sandton Clinic, where I saw my darling husband on the next bed giving me a smile and a thumbs-up. I had sustained a gunshot to the right shoulder, through the brachial plexus, the right lung, the right clavicle and a few ribs. He had mild concussion and a ricochet through the back of his thigh exiting through the groin.

The police came to interview us in the hospital, but because our accounts differed, they told us to get our story straight and then left. Our children arrived within hours, also traumatised. I couldn’t sleep—every time I closed my eyes I saw the shapes in the room all over again.

After seven days I was discharged. I couldn’t face going back to the house so we moved into my son’s apartment. I was very weak, felt vulnerable and was utterly dependent, which I hated—my daughter washed my hair, buttered my toast and helped me get dressed. It was painful watching my husband needing help, being unable to drive, being so tired, so childlike at times. We finally returned to our house after six weeks, after our home security system had been beefed up. One big frustration has been the lack of action on the part of the police. They were mostly unresponsive, made only two follow up visits, and almost five years later the case remains on some police officers’ desk, unsolved. I feel the police assigned to our case were ineffectual and I have little time for them.

The slow process of recovery continues. A lot has changed—my body image changed—it is not just about my paralysed right arm. This is a new Christine: I have learned to ask for help and I am much more focused on what I want from life. My cognitive functioning has been impaired thanks to the drugs I need to control the pain. I could have died. I didn’t. I got on with life.”

Christine Buchanan’s story of survival was originally published in Gun ViolenceDisability and Recovery, published by the global NGO Surviving Gun Violence Project. The book contains stories and reflections from over 35 survivors of gun violence from around the world. To find out more about the organisation visit

Thank you to both Christine and the Surviving Gun Violence Project for allowing us to share your story.