Khethiwe may live

by Deacon Thomas Müller

„The almighty God, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, has freed you from the sin of Adam and gave you new life through the water and the Holy Spirit." ... Yes, my dear little Khethiwe, you will come to know this new life much too fast - that is what I think about as the baptismal service carries on. "You are now being anointed with the Holy Chrism; as you are a member of the people of God and belong for ever to Christ, who was anointed priest, king and prophet forever. Amen." I make the sign of the cross on her forehead. Khethiwe is so weak, she will most probably not survive the night, not in the earthly sense of the word.

Khethiwe is a bit more than a year old, but she is malnourished and was infected with HIV through breastfeeding. It was much too late until somebody tried to get help. When it became obvious that her mother was suffering from AIDS she was locked into her hut together with her child. A bowl with maize-meal porridge a day pushed into the hut through a gap underneath the locked entrance door, was all the food they got. Their family ostracised them because of fear of infection and even more because of fear of the ancestral spirits and evil spirits. This is what happens again and again here in Zululand at the east coast of South Africa. Neighbours notified the Social Workers and they brought mother and child to us to the Care Centre of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard in Mandeni, 100 kilometres north of Durban. Our help was too late for the mother suffering from AIDS in its final stage. She died on the day of her admission. We had hope for her, but she is so weak now that she can hardly breathe. What a joy it is as I enter her ward the next day and she is still alive.

I take her into my arms, but she does not react at all with her serious small face. I hope you will not have to suffer too much, my little one! I find her in her ward even on the day after and on the following day and she is even improving slightly. Is there still hope though? Khethiwe's granny has to walk a long distance to visit her and she does so twice - three times a week. It was just through proper nutrition and good care that the little one regained so much strength that she qualifies for antiretroviral treatment. Granny being the legal guardian now agrees. She promises to take Khethiwe home as soon as possible and takes part in the drug readiness course for Highly-Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART). She will make sure that Khethiwe will take her strong medication twice daily form now on for the rest of her life. She starts HAART in our hospice. A little Zulu girl leaves the Care Centre walking alongside her granny nearly six months after we thought that she would have to die.

Khethiwe may live for many more years, ten, fifteen maybe twenty. We hope and pray that by that time medication may be found which could really cure AIDS.

Khethiwe may live because there is the Care Centre of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard - a Catholic Relief Organisation which is solely financed through donations - for 10 years already. Although we get monies from the U.S.A. through the South African Bishops' Conference for HAART patients, these do not cover all the cost. Another 500 Rand per patient per month is needed to run the HAART programme successfully and in a sustainable way. Information and training of patients and their partners (or treatment companions) inpatient care during the initial phase, regular medical after care and home visits of these chronic patients. What we can do here locally, we do happily. We do it because of our faith and our reward are the beaming faces of those we an help and the grateful looks of those whose hands we hold as they die as we pray with them and for them.

This page is part of the Newsletter No. 26 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

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