Ngiyabonga Nkosi

I am a widow of 54 years of age, I have seven children some are married and have given me many wonderful grandchildren. I live on a farm north of Eshowe in kwaZulu/Natal.

Three years ago my husband passed away leaving me alone to look after our children who are still at school. One day I was busy working in the fields where I grow vegetables to feed my family when I had this terrible headache. It was extremely hot and so I did not take much notice of the pain, as I thought it was just a normal headache from the sun. When the weeding was complete for the day and the vegetables watered, I made my weary way home. I was tired and sweaty. The children had returned from school and were hungry, as usual. The pots of uputhu and stew were on the fire and the food was almost ready. Pain, oh such pain. My head is going to split open. I remember my youngest daughter calling me from a distance. "Mama, Mama". I have to go to her, she is in trouble and needs me. There is no one else to help her. "Mama, Mama". I must go to her, but it is so difficult, so dark, like swimming through soup.

I open my eyes and there is Thokozile, my baby daughter. Tears were running down her face. I tried to lift my hand to wipe the tears away, but my hand would not do what I wanted it to. My mind told my arm to move but nothing happened. Slowly the realisation came to me, something was seriously wrong. I tried to ask my family what had happened, but the words which came out sounded garbled and nobody could understand me. Finally a man dressed in white came into the room. Then I realised that I was in a hospital. "You have had a stroke", he told me. "You are paralysed down the left side of your body". He carried out some tests. My face, my arm and hand and my leg would not move. This must have been one of the worst moments of my life. I had never thought that something like this could happen to me.

One day rolled into another. The programme was the same each day. The physiotherapists were so kind and gentle. They encouraged me to keep up my exercises. Very soon the doctor discharged me from hospital where I had felt safe and secure. The family took me home to the farm. How am I going to manage, I thought. I was so tired after the journey, I fell asleep. The next morning I awoke with my little daughter crying. She was hungry. I tried to get up to help her, I could not. I fell on the floor. Sobbing, I pulled myself along the floor to her and tried to comfort her. We sat together for a long time. When she had quietened down, I asked her to help me by doing exactly what I told her. She was a little angel. She did everything I asked of her, but a child of four is limited in her ability to help. The older children had already left for school. I sat on the cold cement floor of my hut for hours until the older children came home.

How was I going to manage?

Somehow we got through the next week, but circumstances at home were becoming more and more complicated and difficult. Is that a car I hear? Please, Lord, let that be a visitor. What a relief, it is Dudu, my daughter and her husband from Mandeni. There is not much discussion, they bundle my children and me into the car and drive me to their home. The house is small, it has four rooms. Two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. It takes a lot of reorganising to fit us all in. My daughter, her husband and their two children now live in one room and my three children and myself in the other. Ngiyabonga Nkosi, you have really blessed me with good children. Now if only I can become independent again.

One day my son-in-law came home with the news that there is help for me, right here in Mandeni. There is a new centre opened up where volunteers are prepared to help. Simon told the family that he went to speak to the people at Blessed Gérard’s Care Centre and they would come to visit me tomorrow morning. The morning comes, it is a beautiful sunny day and for the first time, in months, I feel happy. The anticipation is almost unbearable. Finally at 9am the ladies in white and black arrive. They seem so nice. But they are speaking English, how am I going to tell them what I want and what I feel? It does not matter. Simon, tells them for me what has happened. One lady takes my blood pressure and asks lots of questions. The other one shows so much concern, I want to cry. They promise to come and fetch me tomorrow and take me to this centre in Mandeni. Although, I am happy, I am also nervous. What will it be like? Will they speak Zulu? Is it a hospital? What will happen when I want something, a cup of tea perhaps? Will they bring me home again? Will I ever be independent again?

I should never have worried. When we arrived at Blessed Gérard’s Care Centre the next day, there were other people just like me. I never realised that I was not the only one in the world that had suffered a stroke. I had been so wrapped up in my own pain and self-pity that I never thought there might be somebody else worse off than me. The volunteers are so friendly and even though there is a language barrier, it makes no difference. We get tea and biscuits and then the exercising begins. It is not hard work because we are all together in a group and everyone is laughing and happy. After lunch we are asked if we would like to have a sleep. Only one man says yes. The rest of us are so enthusiastic that we cannot rest. We go back out onto the patio to do more exercises with fun, laughter and happiness.

For a short while all the pain and suffering are forgotten. Now it is 4o’clock and it is time to go home. That night I slept as I have not slept for months. There really is help for me. I cannot wait for tomorrow morning, to continue my rehabilitation.

We have continued this routine for four weeks now. I can stand up and can walk with one crutch, which The Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard has leant me. My arm is still very stiff, but each day my condition improves. I can talk now, but more important that anything else, I have made new friends.

I do not go into Blessed Gérard’s Care Centre any more, but the volunteers come to our home to visit me each week. I look forward to every Tuesday, because I know that my friends are coming. My leg and speech continue to improve and I am now walking a short distance without my crutch. Soon I will be able to go home.

Ngiyabonga Nkosi

This page is part of the Newsletter No. 12 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:50:02