Bongani's story (Christmas 1999)

Bongani was brought to us on a Friday evening by his grieving grandmother. She was grieving for her daughter who had died of AIDS two weeks earlier and this was her baby. The grandmother had not known about her daughter's pregnancy because she lived in Johannesburg. When Bongani's father brought him to kwaZulu/Natal to his grandmother to take care of him, he told her he could not take care of him because he was unemployed and unable to buy the right food for Bongani. Sugar water was all the food the baby was getting at that time and he was suffering from severe malnutrition.

On top of that, he told the grandmother that Bongani was HIV positive. She was devastated and did not know where to turn. She took him to the local hospital, where they wrote on his chart, "Baby with marasmus and immunodeficiency. I don't think hospital admission would change the outcome and have informed the grandmother that the baby is terminally ill." They were then sent home to care for the child themselves as best they could. However, this proved very difficult because the grandmother had to work and had no time to care for a tiny sick child.

Fortunately, her employers knew about our offer of help. Of course we took him in to look after him. But the little boy of three and a half months was already in the final stages of AIDS. All we could do was to give him as much love as possible and ease his suffering.

To do this, we had to fight his high fever, relieve his constant coughing and his pain. Everyone at the nursing and hospice centre loved him during his short time with us. 26 days later, God called him to his permanent place in heaven.

Bongani could not have known how much he changed all our lives. We will never forget him. Our sincere condolences go to his grandmother who cared for him so much.

[This story is published with the express permission of the family].