If the insurance company Nationwide ever relaunches that popular ad campaign "Life Comes At You Fast," it would be wise to tell the story of Amina Makamba’s journey to the United States.
Then again, it might be scrapped for being too unbelievable.
Fearing for her safety amid escalating political tension in Africa, Makamba took a friend’s advice and hopped on a flight to Texas in December 2016. The plan was for her husband and two young sons to join at some point.
The Makamba family is part of the Statesman's Season for Caring program, which helps hundreds of families each year through local nonprofit agencies. The Makamba family was nominated by Foundation Communities.
No more than 12 hours after arriving in Austin, Makamba, 6 months pregnant, began experiencing unrelenting stomach pain.
The ultrasound that the staff at Ascension Seton Medical Center performed revealed a shocker: Makamba was pregnant with triplets, and one of them was struggling. An emergency cesarean section followed.
Welcome to America.
"The journey starts and I find myself having three kids," Makamba said recently. "That was real for me."
Nchuti Divine and Masango Sacha arrived at 3 pounds each. Lukala Testimony, the last to come, weighed 1 pound. Born with disabilities related to breathing and eating, she stayed in the intensive care unit for five months and to this day requires specialized doctors.
A letter from a local doctor dated Sept. 18 states that the complex medical care Lukala has received through Medicaid is unavailable in her mother’s home country, Congo. The letter goes to support Makamba’s request to stay here permanently.
"Please allow her to stay in the United States to participate in her daughter’s care," the letter states.
Although many local charities have assisted the family with housing and food, Makamba has nannied and taken courses as a part-time student at Austin Community College. Since August, she has worked as an accounting clerk with ACC while holding down a part-time position with a local investment company.
"For me, it’s really important to work in a company that has a strong mission," Makamba said. "I don’t just work to get a paycheck."
Makamba’s future in the United States is uncertain pending the approval of an asylum application. The hope is to establish permanent residency and bring over her husband and two young sons, who remain in Congo and have never been in the same room with the triplets.
Makamba, sobbing while reliving her past three years, noted that one son was 2 when she left him. He’s now 5.
"You cannot have those years back," she said.
Makamba’s biggest needs are airline tickets to bring the rest of the family from Congo to the U.S. and an attorney to help establish permanent residency. The girls need bigger car seats and gift cards for clothes and bedding. The family also needs many storage systems such as shelves, dressers and boxes for under the bed. She would like area rugs and a potty training seat. She would also love tuition assistance to continue her education.
To find out more about the Makamba family and to donate an item on the wish list, contact Foundation Communities, 512-447-2026, foundcom.org.