Borjana (pronounced Boryana) was a 13-year old schoolgirl in Bosnia when a stray bullet lodged in her abdomen, fracturing her hip and severely damaging her bladder. Multiple surgeries and untold pain and anguish later, she is now a happy mother of two living in Sydney’s south west. She self-catheterises and does her best to lead a normal life.
A bullet out of the blue
Borjana is an Australian citizen of Serbian descent, originally from Srbac (pronounced Serbatz), a small town in Bosnia.
In 1992, when Borjana was 13 years old, waiting for some friends outside her school in Srbac, she was shot. The bullet entered through her hip and passed into her abdomen. The shooter was never identified, but Borjana’s life changed forever.
The local hospital was not equipped to deal with Borjana’s injuries, so she was relocated to a hospital in Belgrade, 270km east of Srbac. She spent 2 years in the Belgrade hospital due to the severity of her injuries. Her family couldn’t stay in Belgrade so she was mostly on her own during this time, with only the hospital staff for company.
The bullet damaged Borjana’s bladder so badly that the doctors had to redirect her urine to pass through her lower digestive tract. She also developed several Vesicovaginal fistulas. Her right hip was fractured, the tendons in her leg were damaged. She was unable to lift her right foot. After 6 months she was taught to sit up and walk and began a slow and tedious recovery. It was not until 2 years after her injury that Borjana could leave the hospital and visit her home and family. She was unable to return to school.
Finding love and having kids
In 1997, when she was 20, Borjana’s family came as refugees to live in Australia. She stayed for about 7 years before returning to Bosnia. There she met her then husband, Zarko, who is also from Srbac.
Borjana and Zarko moved to Australia for the birth of their first child and in 2005 they welcomed a daughter, Sanja. They tried for a second baby, but instead suffered the agony of 6 miscarriages. Finally the couple joyfully gave birth to son Luca in 2013. Both children were premature and delivered by Caesarean. Sanja was born at 29 weeks and Luca at 34 weeks. Despite their early start to life, they are thriving, gorgeous, healthy and happy kids.
From left to right: Luca, Zarko, Sanja & Borjana
Surgery after surgery
Over the years, Borjana has had 24 surgeries. She says, “The doctors here, we are lucky to have them”.
Of her urologist, Dr Peter Aslan, she says “I don’t have words for him. When I get sick, he fixes me.” Dr Aslan works at St George Private Hospital in Kogarah. He is like family and she trusts him completely.
Borjana has endured several major surgeries to support, repair and enlarge her bladder and is now able to self-catheterise, which she has done for 14 years. She has been using Paralogic catheters since 2013, as “they are cheap and the catheters are good”.
Borjana has also had surgery to fuse her ankle into a bent position, allowing her to walk despite the damage in her right leg.
And if that wasn’t enough, fragments of bullet are still everywhere in her stomach and she is unable to have MRI’s as a consequence.
A future full of hope and love
Borjana looks like a normal, healthy, attractive woman, but she has considerable scarring from her repeated surgeries, and takes a number of medications to manage her conditions, some of which have additional side effects. She has a prominent, vertical scar, which runs down the centre of her abdomen and is re-opened for repeated surgeries.
Borjana cherishes her two children. She also enjoys cooking and reading. She wants people to know that it’s still possible to have children after such a severe injury.
Borjana has shared her story to help others, as they become accustomed to the use of catheters for whatever reason, be it illness, injury or a condition of birth. She would like to one day do a nursing course and work in a hospital, perhaps helping other people to use catheters.