An unconscious patient with tuberculosis and meningitis was admitted to Blessed Gérard's Hospice in 1999. He came from a very caring family who had employed a helper to care for him. This was Ngapumelela Ngosizo*. Ngapumelela decided to continue caring for her patient and so she completed our caregiver training and became a member of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard.
Ngapumelela came every day to take care of her patient and she also took care of the other patients who shared the room with him. When he was discharged, she continued to care for him at home. Eventually he died and Ngapumelela continued to help as a volunteer at Blessed Gérard's Hospice, caring for other sick people. Then she found work in a factory and had little time to volunteer, but kept in touch with us.
One day in June this year, the phone rang in my office. "Ngapumelela Ngosizo is here and wants to talk to you," I was told. As always, I was very happy to see her smiling face. When I went to the ground floor to meet her, she was not smiling. I knew something was wrong. We sat down and Ngapumelela asked me to admit her daughter to Blessed Gérard's Children's Home. "Why?", I asked. Ngapumelela started to cry. She told me that she had just been discharged from hospital and was suffering from tuberculosis. She told me that she had AIDS. She was really sick and getting worse every day. Her sister, who had taken care of her before, had chased her away because she was sick. Her mother and siblings had also expelled her. Ngapumelela had not worked and had to rely on her sister so that she and her daughter could live. Without this support, Ngapumelela was desperate. "All right" I said, "but I would like to make you a better offer." Ngapumelela looked at me questioningly with her teary eyes.
"I would like to offer you enough time to raise your daughter, return to work and take joy in her life." Ngapumelela continued to cry silently as I continued, "We are just about to start our treatment programme with antiretroviral drugs and I want to offer you to be one of the first to join this programme." Ngapumelela stopped crying and her face reflected hope and relief. She left her current phone number and went home.
Two months later, I had the great pleasure of calling Ngapumelela and inviting her for blood testing and the first HAART preparation course. She completed her course and because she met all the criteria to be admitted to the programme, she received her antiretroviral therapy. She has not suffered from any side effects, she has gained a lot of weight and now looks much healthier and happier.
One of the most beautiful effects is the fact that Ngapumelela's daughter got her mother back!
* This is a true story, but the name is fictitious for privacy reasons.