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Joseph Lusi, a Glasgow-trained, Congolese orthopedic surgeon who's built like George Foreman and as articulate as Muhammad Ali, habitually starts his day with prayer. But the morning of October 30, 1996, was different. He was dodging bullets and sheltering from incoming mortar shells.

At dawn, rebels had launched a stealth attack on Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) near Rwanda. The fighters had filtered through the border overnight. By daybreak, they were drilling the town with machine gun fire and pounding it with explosives.

Lusi was then director of a Baptist mission hospital, which was located near a military base. The hospital was engulfed in fierce fighting. Staff and able-bodied patients scampered. So did Lusi. A bathroom looked safe. He locked himself in.

The bbc knows no manners. A British journalist called Lusi's satellite phone. The surgeon became a live radio broadcaster, narrating what he saw and heard to a worldwide audience. While on he was on the air, a bomb exploded in the hospital compound.

"I will go and see," Lusi said.

Silence.

In London, Lusi's sister-in-law was tuned in when he went incommunicado. Alarmed by the steady silence, she called Lusi's wife, Gwendolyn, then in Nairobi.

Gwendolyn immediately hit the road. In three days, she found herself stuck at the DRC border. Locals slipped into war-ravaged Goma to scout for her husband.

An indelible image is stamped on her mind: She saw Lusi in a blood-bathed white doctor's gown walking across the border toward her. He had been fixing limbs all weekend—possibly the only surgeon on duty in the city.

How had he survived? When the fighting got ferocious, he and a remnant staff of five hid in the ceiling. The slender ones, who could slide into ...

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In the Magazine

July 2006

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